The project of reunifying Cyprus, an island divided since 1974, long in stasis, has become dramatically more difficult in recent years. Amid broader regional tensions and increasing militarisation of the eastern Mediterranean, relations between Greek and Turkish Cypriots have soure, and prospects for a comprehensive settlement have dimmed. Through its field research, analytical reports and advocacy, Crisis Group aims to identify ways to mitigate the damage of a hardening divide, inform policymakers on both sides of the island and regional actors about shared concerns, recommend ways to stop frictions from heightening further, and create mutual benefits.
UN diplomacy aimed at reunifying Cyprus has been drifting since talks broke down in 2017. The Secretary-General should appoint an envoy to draft a roadmap with sufficient incentives to bring both Greek and Turkish Cypriots back to the table.
UN-brokered understanding on buffer zone faced strains, while agreement on new UN envoy remained elusive.
Tensions resurfaced around buffer zone, undermining UN deal struck in Oct. After UN in early Oct brokered deal on road construction by Turkish Cypriots to connect Pile/Pyla village (located in UN buffer zone) to “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (“TRNC”), leader of “TRNC” Ersin Tatar 1 Nov met UN Deputy Sec Gen for Peace Operations, claiming Greek Cypriots had “started construction activities” in areas around village and requesting UN intervention. “TRNC” FM Tahsin Ertugruloglu same day argued such works breached UN-brokered mutual understanding and demanded cessation. Republic of Cyprus President Christodoulides 6 Nov reported that UN had “requested a short pause” in construction to deal with “TRNC” complaints and 11 Nov denied the works violated UN understanding, asserting that “TRNC” had effectively “backed away” from it. Republic of Cyprus 21 Nov ruled out renegotiating deal and called on UN to facilitate “swift resumption of work”. Republic of Cyprus 27 Nov claimed “serious ongoing violation of the buffer zone” in reference to installation by Turkish Cypriots of rotating camera and antenna on uninhabited house; TRNC said it was aimed at preventing illegal immigration. Christodoulides 28 Nov warned of consequences if status quo not restored after around 40 armed Turkish Cypriot soldiers were sighted in buffer zone previous day.
Search for agreement on UN envoy continued. After Greek Cypriot media late Oct reported that “TRNC” had rejected Julie Bishop, potential candidate to fill UN envoy role vacant since 2017, due to her Australian nationality, Christodoulides 11 Nov accused Türkiye of “making excuses” by not accepting her for coming from “Commonwealth country”. Tatar 15 Nov said “TRNC” was waiting for new envoy proposal; Christodoulides 20 Nov said he expected new choice imminently.
In another important development. International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and nearly 70 media organisations 14 Nov published report alleging dozens of Russian oligarchs used financial services in Republic of Cyprus to evade Western sanctions, including those imposed in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in Feb 2022; Republic of Cyprus police subsequently opened criminal investigation.
Οι Ελληνοκύπριοι και οι Τουρκοκύπριοι απομακρύνθηκαν ακόμα περισσότερο μετά την αποτυχημένη Σύνοδο του 2017, με αποτέλεσμα να παρεμποδιστεί η συνεργασία σε πολλά σημαντικά ζητήματα και να αυξηθούν οι εντάσεις στην ανατολική Μεσόγειο. Οι ελπίδες για την επανένωση της Κύπρου είναι ελάχιστες προς το παρόν, αλλά οι δύο πλευρές μπορούν να συνεχίσουν να εργάζονται για την επίτευξη πιο μετριοπαθών στόχων.
Στα μέσα του 2020, Τουρκία και Ελλάδα έθεσαν τους Μεσογειακούς του στόλους σε υψηλή ετοιμότητα, ανεβάζοντας δραματικά τις εντάσεις στη μακροχρόνια αντιπαράθεσή τους για εναέριο χώρο, ύδατα, βραχονησίδες και πλέον υποθαλάσσια κοιτάσματα φυσικού αερίου. Οι συνομιλίες έχουν υπάρξει κουραστικές αλλά παραμένουν ο καλύτερος τρόπος να περιοριστεί ο κίνδυνος σύγκρουσης.
Greece and Turkey have stepped back from the brink of military confrontation over gas exploration in disputed waters in the Mediterranean Sea. But trouble still looms. European leaders should welcome signs of conciliation from Athens and Ankara and nudge them toward talks.
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