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The never-ending Cyprus conflict

Moskovou Spiros Kommentarbild App
Spiros Moskovou
November 22, 2016

Both Greek and Turkish Cypriots have said they want their homeland united. It’s time to ask why there's such a lack of political will to reunite the island of Cyprus, says DW's Spiros Moskovou.

Zypern Konflikt symbol
Image: Reuters/Y. Kourtoglou

The island of Cyprus has been divided since 1974, and since that time, both Greek and Turkish Cypriots have said they only want one thing: the reunification of their homeland. Despite this, whenever they hold long, drawn-out negotiations and get close to resolving the conflict, both sides pull out. And that's exactly what happened on Monday night in Mont Pelerin on Lake Geneva, at United Nations-backed talks between Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci.

For days, rumors had been swirling that they were on the brink of a breakthrough. But once again, the rumors were unsubstantiated. Despite the latest talks, which have been ongoing for the past 18 months, the negotiations ended in an impasse. The main sticking point: the village of Morphou, once home to a predominantly Greek Cypriot population of 7,500 people. Since the Turkish invasion, it has been part of the northern region controlled by Turkey. Most of its former residents now live as well-situated refugees in the Greek southern part of the island.

Akinci's proposals on how to handle the issue of refugees lead the Greek side to conclude that the return of Morphou was not part of the Turkish Cypriots' plans. The future of this town drove these talks to yet another dead end.

Economically weak Turkish Cypriots

If Morphou is such an important symbol, then the rest of the world, not acquainted with the ins and outs of the red lines drawn in the Cyprus conflict, might be forgiven for asking why Greek Cypriots rejected the Annan plan in a referendum in 2004. Among other things, that plan for the reunification of Cyprus included the return of Morphou, and many Greek Cypriot politicians were involved in working out the details. The Greeks rejected the plans, and the Turks approved it. Then too, a solution to the Cyprus question was postponed.

Moskovou Spiros Kommentarbild App
Spiros Moskovou heads DW's Greek language service

More than 40 years after the Turkish invasion, it's time to ask the question at the heart of the conflict in a different way. The usual lip service aside, why is there no robust political will to work toward the reunification of Cyprus? This answer can be found in the island's division. The Turkish Cypriots are weaker, and the Greek Cypriots are stronger. The economically weak Turkish north is dependent on its protector - the consistently unpredictable Turkey. Ankara has no pressing reason to give up its bargaining chip in the Mediterranean.

World forgets Athens-organized coup

The Greek south is comparatively wealthy, and its residents feel at home in the EU and in the eurozone. They also have no pressing reason to forfeit the cause for their complaints on the world stage. They would rather remain the eternally pitied victims of a decades-old Turkish invasion.

But the world forgets that in 1974, the military dictatorship in Athens organized a coup in Nicosia with the goal of reunifying Greece. Turkey, which then had a democratic government, intervened in order to protect Turkish Cypriots from attacks. Cyprus thus became the political football of its own guarantor powers, turning the island conflict into a standoff with no end in sight.

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