Cyprus: 2 States, 1 Government

Territoriality and security issues have led to an impasse on UNFICYP sponsored negotiations between two long standing enemies, the Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Cyprus.

Current negotiations, being mediated by the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), are aimed at the eventual establishment of a federal government with a single international personality consisting of a Turkish and Greek Cypriot Constituent State, both of equal status.  Beginning on July 25th, a series of 4 meetings have been devoted to governance and power-sharing. Nevertheless, Michalis S. Michael, Deputy Director for the Center for Dialogue, has stated that despite the 126 high-level meetings since 2008, little progress has been achieved on the core issues separating the two sides: territory and security issues.

The agreement on the creation of a bicommunal and a bizonal federation has brought about occurring flashbacks of Obama’s speech detailing the need to a “two state solution” the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  The long standing conflict between these two peoples has been eons old; spanning ideology, religion, culture, and history.  Evidently, the conflict between Palestine and Israel holds a much larger place on the international stage due to its cultural and symbolic significance but the inability for cooperation to emerge serves as a shadow over the Cypriot talks.  The history of violence between Turkey and Greece on the island of Cyprus has resulted a tense relationship at best.


On the 16th of August, 1960, the island of Cyprus was established as an independent nation under the Zurich and London Agreement.  At the time, 30% of the population were Turkish Cypriots, serving as a minority of the nation.  The division of culture and peoples became evident in 1963 when Turkish and Greek Cypriots began to clash. The conflict escalated after the military junta in Athens advocated the coup d’etat by the militia group EOKA-B against Greek Cypriot president, Makarios.  According to the junta, Makarios could not be trusted to be a “true supporter” of union.  His replacement, Nikos Sampson, was an ultra-nationlist sparking Turkish fears of anti-Turkish sentiment.  In response, Turkey began to pressure the Greek Cypriot government with demands for sovereignty for the Turkish community.

Turkish fears led to military intervention on the 20th of July, 1974. Turkey launched “Operation Atilla” to force Greek Cypriot exodus from northern Cyprus and enforce Turkish equality on the island.  Following the demise of the military junta on mainland Greece, Karamanlis became the Prime Minister and aimed at a formal relaxation of tensions, detente. As with every international conflict requiring “peace” and “tranquility”, peace talks were head in Geneva. Regardless of the negotiations, both talks failed and Turkey launched a “Second Peace Operation”.  In the end, Turkey seized control of 37% -40% of northern Cyprus, forcibly removing 180,000 Greeks form their homes.  In 1983, the land was formally declared as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus adopting a constitution and recognized only by Turkey. The division of the Turkish and Greek territory was marked by the construction of a wall (Berlin Wall?) along Lendra Street.


Furthermore, recent developments have shed some light on a potential reconciliation between the two powers. In 2004, the Republic of Cyprus was able to join both the UN and the EU, demonstrating both its political stability and economic potential as both organization have structural requirements.  Although the UN sponsored Annan Plan of 2004 failed in reunifying the divided states, the Lendra Street wall was demolished in April of 2008. The street has become a famous shopping lane for both Turkish and Greek Cypriots, as well being the 6th line of crossing between the Greek south and the Turkish north.

Sadly, the 1st meeting on July 25th marked the beginning of a series of 19 all day intensive meetings that have already begun to be plagued by disagreements and stalemate.  The Center for Dialogue stated that disagreements over reunification fundamentally revolve around its structural form, with persistent disputes over territoriality and property claims, as well as the nature of power-sharing.  The Turkish Republic has stated that it fears a strong Greek Cypriot government because it will leave them as an isolated minority.  Meanwhile, the Greek Cypriots have advocated for a strong central authority, as well as demilitarization of the Turkish region.  The Turkish people are fearful of a strong opposing military separated by only a border, leaving them guarded and resentful of Greek demands. Ironically, the fear of invasion leading to heightened military awareness was the reason for the creation of the Iron Curtain, the buffer zone of apparatchik regimes for the USSR, according to the Long Telegram by Keenan.  With history illustrating the slippery slope of international tension and  ideological opposition, the future for UNFICYP talks seem gloomy.

“Incentives for change are weaker than the security of the status quo” – Michalis S. Michael, Deputy Direcotr of the Center for Dialogue.


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