The talks between Nicos Anastasiades and Mustafa Akinci in Switzerland, far from the pressures of Cyprus, allow us to hope that a solution may be near. The road will be long but the fact that the thorny issue of territory is being discussed is encouraging.
It is worth noting, also, that after a century of intensive involvement in the Cyprus issue, Greece is all but absent. Turkey does not allow the Turkish Cypriots any breathing space and may still torpedo the process at any moment. As regards the Greek side, developments are in Cypriot hands. Until now, Greece’s most positive contribution was the strong support it gave to Cyprus’s EU accession in 2004.
For the most part, however, outside intervention on Cyprus was disastrous – to a greater or lesser extent – for the people of Cyprus but also for Greece and Turkey. The balance of power and tensions between Greece and Turkey, the influence of Britain, the United States and Russia, turned Cyprus into a dispute which brought questionable gains and huge damage upon its people.
From 1915, when Greek statesman Eleftherios Venizelos and the British government first discussed the colonial power’s giving Cyprus to Greece in exchange for Greece entering World War I on the side of the Entente, the Cypriots were repeatedly at the center of events they could not control.
Often, however, the actions of the Greek and Turkish Cypriots caused tension between Greece and Turkey, fueling the nationalism that put pressure on governments and determined events. The anti-Greek pogrom in Istanbul in 1955 and the later expulsion of the city’s age-old Greek community was one consequence of this dynamic. In 1974, the Greek dictatorship’s criminal effort to cover itself in glory by engineering a coup aimed at uniting Cyprus with Greece set off the Turkish invasion.
Each decade had its own tensions, clashes and negotiations – before and after the agreement establishing the Republic of Cyprus. The constitution provoked new tensions and clashes, and the guarantor powers – Greece, Turkey and Britain – did anything but help. Britain, in fact, had brought Turkey into the issue earlier, ensuring that Cyprus would be a continual cause of tension. With all these factors at play, and with Turkey's hard line, it was impossible to reach a just and viable solution to the problem.
As the years passed and the island’s communities lived apart, the possibility of their agreeing to reunite grew slimmer. And yet EU accession and the personal relationship between Anastiasiades and Akinci gave new life to the effort.
Greece observes, with minimal participation. Perhaps this is because of the damage that the Greek economic crisis dealt to Cyprus. Perhaps Cyprus’s quick recovery gave the Cypriots confidence that they can manage on their own. In any case, the answer that Cyprus’s Communist Party AKEL fired off at its “sister” party in Greece, when the latter tried to intervene in the negotiations, said it all: “The future of Cyprus is an issue for Cypriots and it is they who will decide what it is.”