Turkish Cypriot president announces peace negotiations to end conflict on Cyprus

The talks, the first in four years, are slated to begin in September · Greeks and Turks accept the creation of a federal state, but disagree on Turkey’s future role

The president of the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Mehmet Ali Talat, announced direct talks with the Greek Cypriot president, Demetris Christofias, beginning in September. These will be the first formal peace negotiations in four years, when a plan designed by then-secretary of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, was rejected by Greek Cypriots in a referendum. The aim of the roundtable discussions are to come to an agreement that will bring an end to the tensions on Cyprus, which have left the island divided since 1974.

Talat made the announcement in an interview on Turkish television CNN Türk, just before the Turkish Cypriot leader was to meet with his Greek Cypriot counterpart. Talat and Christofias agree that Cyprus should be unified with a single government and single citizenship, and that it should become a federal state made up of two entities: one Greek Cypriot in the south and one Turkish Cypriot in the north. The two leaders also share the view that both communities should have the same rights.

Turkey's role

There are still several no less important issues that are unresolved. One is the role of Turkey in any future unified state. Talat, reports the Turkish Daily News, says that Turkey has to maintain a role as defender of the equality of the Turkish Cypriot community and of the existence of a political entity for the Turks of Cyprus. On this point there is complete disagreement from the Greek Cypriot leadership, which argues that that would constitute unacceptable infringement on the part of Turkey in the affaires of a sovereign state of Cyprus.

The state leadership, on the other hand, does not seem to have to overcome any large obstacles. Christofias, explains the Southeast European Times, is prepared to accept a rotating presidency between Greeks and Turks, even though Greeks far outnumber Turks. There may also be demilitarization on the island once a final accord is reached.

Colonies and refugees

There are still other topics that have not begun to be touched on and which surely will be a source of much back and forth. One is the future of Turkish colonies that were settled in the 1980s on Northern Cyprus and which likely outnumber original Turkish Cypriot. Christofias wants a segment of these colonists to return to their country. The other is the matter of the right to return for Cypriots who were forced out of their homes when the island was divided. This problem mostly affects the Greek Cypriots who had to flee Northern Cyprus with the invasion of the Turkish army. The plan by Kofi Annan in 2004 did not call for a mass return of the displaced and that was one of the reasons the Greek Cypriot voted against the proposal.

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