Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı 2 March criticised decision by Republic of Cyprus govt to close four of eight checkpoints on dividing line separating Republic of Cyprus from self-declared “Turkish Republic of North Cyprus” (“TRNC”) to combat spread of COVID-19. Pro-federalist activists 7 and 9 March staged protests on either side of closed border crossing leading to small-scale clashes between police, Greek and Turkish Cypriots and UN soldiers. “TRNC” officials 19 March said they had postponed “presidential” elections from 26 April to 11 Oct due to COVID-19; Akıncı to continue in caretaker capacity. Tensions between Turkey and Republic of Cyprus and Greece over gas drilling in eastern Mediterranean remained high: Turkey’s third drillship, dubbed Kanuni and newly acquired from UK, arrived in Turkey 15 March.
To avoid another failed effort at federal reunification in the new round of Cyprus negotiations, all sides should break old taboos and discuss all possible options, including independence for Turkish Cypriots within the European Union.
Though newly discovered gas reserves off Cyprus are currently driving the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities further apart, they could offer both newfound wealth if, together with Turkey, they would start a new dialogue.
To capitalise on twelve years of normalisation, and at a time when both could benefit from a foreign policy success, Greece and Turkey should settle their expensive, outdated and stressful stand-off over Aegean Sea maritime zones and related issues.
With stalemate looming in the UN-sponsored Cyprus reunification negotiations, parties to the dispute need to take dramatic, unilateral steps to break the decades-long distrust that is suffocating them.
Stability in the Eastern Mediterranean will remain hostage to full settlement of the Cyprus dispute, but the property issue – one of its most intractable knots – can be solved now if Greek and Turkish Cypriots compromise on new proposals currently before them.
Three decades of efforts to reunify Cyprus are about to end, leaving a stark choice ahead between a hostile, de facto partition of the island and a collaborative federation between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities living in two constituent states.
Originally published in Transatlantic Academy
Originally published in The Majalla
Originally published in IP Journal