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Europe

The Long Running Cyprus-Turkey Saga

With Cyprus the main remaining stumbling block to Turkey’s EU accession, DW looks at the background of the long-running dispute.

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Three decades of tense relations in Cyprus

The Mediterranean island of Cyprus has been split since Turkish forces occupied almost one third of the north 30 years ago. The invasion was ostensibly because the military dictators then in control in Athens wanted to annex Cyprus to Greece -- most of the people in the south of the island were ethnic Greeks.

More than 35,000 Cypriots still live in the north, though Turkey has encouraged settlement by mainland Turks. Today, Turkey is the only country that recognises the northern Turkish-controlled part as a state and does not recognise the government of the Greek south.

UN Friedensgespräche in Zypern

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, right, tried to broker a deal in March

An attempt to re-unite the two communities failed in March because the southern Greeks turned down a United Nations brokered deal. In May, the EU accepted all of Cyprus as a member.

Turkey has, so far, categorically ruled out recognition of Cyprus as long as there’s no peace treaty accepted by both communities on the island. Some analysts say that it’s too much to expect Turkey to recognize a government it perceives as preventing an accommodation between the communities.

Possible solutions

One way out of the impasse would be for Turkey to recognize Cyprus indirectly by ratifying extension of the customs union, which includes Cyprus. In return, the Greek Cypriots would be pushed to start new talks with the Turk Cypriots.

United States diplomats have been heavily involved behind the scenes. The US wants Turkey integrated with the EU and has leaned heavily on the Greek Cypriots not to block it. There has also been heavy pressure from Britain towards that end.

Zypern Grenze zu Nordzypern

Tentative cross-border travel

Many Turkish Cypriots are known to be unhappy about Turkey’s heavy-handedness in the north. Political moderates there have often called for talks with the Greeks in the south but been turned down. Very cautiously, cross-border travel is developing between the two communities.

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