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Poll to Decide Cyprus' Future

DW staff (ncy)April 1, 2004

Greek and Turkish Cypriot negotiators failed Wednesday to agree on plans to reunify Cyprus. In late April it will be up to the island's residents to vote on U.N. chief Annan's plan for one Cypriot state.

It's up to the citizens now.Image: AP

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan presented his proposal for the future of a reunified Cyprus early Thursday morning, after ten days of talks failed to bridge differences between Greek and Turkish Cypriots. Annan's blueprint for peace will be now be voted upon by the divided Mediterranean island's people in two separate referenda on April 24. Both sides must approve the plan for Cyprus to be reunified.

"The chance is between this settlement or no settlement," Annan said. "This plan is fair and designed to work."

The negotiations between Green and Turkish Cypriots and their respective governments in the Swiss resort town of Bürgenstock hinged on the number of Greek and Turkish troops that would remain on the island, property rights, freedom of movement and EU law. In the end, the Greek Cypriot side was unwilling to authorize the peace plan Annan had drafted, saying it demanded too many concessions from them.

The Turkish Cypriots however, were largely satisfied with their part of the deal. "We could not imagine a solution more marvellous than this, " a Turkish diplomat told reporters. "we got everything we wanted. They (the Greeks) lost. It's that simple."

It appears unlikely that Cypriots will approve an arrangement that their leadership disagreed with. Opinion polls have shown that most Greek Cypriots would say "no" to reunification, and a slim majority of Turkish Cypriots would vote "yes."

If either referenda fails, only the Greek Cypriot part of the island, which is internationally recognized, will join the European Union on May 1. The Turkish Cypriot north, which is only recognized by Ankara, will remain internationally isolated. Turkey will also face a setback to its efforts to join the EU.

Ethnically-based federation

The failed proposals, some details of which were leaked to the press, called for a republic led by a federal state made up of both Greek and Turkish Cypriots. Greek Cypriots and returnees would have been restricted from moving to the Turkish part of the island and from buying property there. Turkish soldiers would have remained stationed in the north as well.

Zypern - Grenze wird geöffnet
Turkish Cypriots cross the UN buffer zone south to the Greek Cypriot controlled Ledra Palace checkpoint in April 2003. Greek and Turkish Cypriots some began crossing from one side to the other of their divided island for the first time since 29-year-old travel restrictions were lifted by the Turkish side earlier in the month.Image: AP
Cyprus has been divided since Turkey invaded the north in response to a failed Greek Cypriot coup that was supported by Greece in 1974. Around 160,000 Greek Cypriots fled from their homes when Turkey invaded. Since then thousands of Turks have settled on the island. Greek Cypriots make up around two-thirds of Cyprus' 800,000 population. They are far wealthier than the Turkish Cypriots who control one-third of the country.