8 Things to Know About the Cyprus Peace Talks

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  1. Atilla

    Atilla Major

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    Eight things to know about the Cyprus peace talks

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    Turkish and Greek Cypriots are set to engage in important talks that could change the dynamics in the Eastern Mediterranean.

    Cyprus is arguably one of the world’s most ‘peaceful’ conflicts. Over 40 years in, and the ceasefire has not been broken once.

    1. Cyprus has been divided for over 40 years

    Cyprus was divided on July 20, 1974. A military coup carried out by a Greek junta tried to overthrow the island’s constitutional government and annex the island to Greece. Turkey intervened on the basis of an earlier treaty that spelled out their duties as a guarantor of peace on the island. Turkish troops secured the north of the island as a safe haven for Turkish Cypriots and the Greek coup bid collapsed. Approximately 200,000 Greek Cypriots were displaced from their homes in the north of the island and fled to the south, which remained under Greek Cypriot control. Turkish Cypriots fled their enclaves in the south and were settled in the north. A ceasefire line guarded by UN peacekeepers that crosses the island has separated the two communities ever since.

    2. Cyprus is a European — and also a politically divided — nation

    There are two administrative authorities on the island — the internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus (RoC) based in the south, and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) which is only recognised by Turkey. Turkish troops in the north are in charge of the defence of the TRNC. The European Union registered the RoC as a member state in 2004 — and considers the Turkish Cypriot administration in the north to be illegitimate and the presence of Turkish troops an illegal occupation. Although Turkey exercised its right to intervene, Turkey’s failure to re-establish a working government and withdraw its troops from the island raised alarm over its intentions. Peace talks ahead of the RoC’s EU accession in 2004 failed to re-establish a united administration in time. Greek Cypriots in the south rejected UN-endorsed conditions laid out to reunite the island in a referendum.

    3. Under the terms of the deal, a new Cyprus might not look that different

    In February 2014, Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots agreed to revive peace talks, which had stalled for two years. The two sides announced they would push for a deal based on bi-zonal, bi-communal principles — or two separate administrative areas for both peoples.These plans were endorsed by the UN. This would see the island united under one administrative umbrella overshadowing two federal zones. What will this mean in practice? A north-south divide will still exist, but some land swaps are anticipated. Everyone on the island would have the freedom to live and work on either side of the island, but they would only vote in the area they are registered in. These details are still being worked out.

    4. For the first time ever, everyone involved might join the talks — Turkey, Greece and the UK

    If the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot negotiators can iron out their differences by January 12, representatives from Turkey, Greece and the UK might join the talks. Turkey and the UK have indicated that they will attend, but so far, Greece hasn’t commented. Turkey, Greece and the UK are all guarantors of peace in Cyprus, as ratified by the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee. It is anticipated that the parties will discuss the their status as guarantors. Turkey and the TRNC intend to uphold the treaty, but the RoC, Greece and the UK have said they’re willing to pull out of it.

    5. A deal could lead to an Eastern Mediterranean gas bonanza

    A substantial amount of natural gas was discovered under the Eastern Mediterranean seabed in 2011, namely the Aphrodite gas field located in the Cypriot exclusive economic zone. If a deal is struck, Turkey may open the way to export gas from the region to Europe through its territory. Such a result would also be promising for massive gas reserves in Egyptian and Israeli waters, which could be connected to the same pipeline network.

    6. Turkey’s accession to the EU can’t go ahead unless the Cyprus dispute is resolved

    Greece and the RoC, as veto-wielding EU members, have consistently opposed Turkey’s accession to the EU. A resolution of the Cyprus dispute may result in the withdrawal of Turkish troops from Cyprus. Under such a deal, Greece may back-off from vetoing Turkey’s accession to the EU.

    7. Around 80,000 Turkish migrants face displacement if the deal goes through

    Some 80,000 people who migrated to Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus from Turkey — after the island was split in 1974 — face deportation to Turkey in the event of a peace deal. This includes people who were born and raised in the TRNC. Around half of the TRNC’s 300,000-strong population comprises of migrants from Turkey. Those who failed to obtain TRNC citizenship or marry a TRNC citizen are likely to be deported and compensated.

    8. Compensation that runs into the billions might be paid out

    In addition to the Turkish migrants who will be deported to Turkey, compensation will also be paid to Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots who were displaced during the 1974 intervention. Some will be given their land back, and others may be given land equal to the value of the land that they were forced to abandon. Those who don’t fall into either category may be given a cash payout. The details on who gets what — and how — are as yet to be determined. There is currently no information available on how the burden of compensation payments will be distributed.

     
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