Following a short hiatus, the resumption of discussions between Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot leadership brings renewed hope for peace in Cyprus.
A treaty signed in 1960 brought an agreement between Britain, Turkey and Greece to secure the independence of Cyprus. The newly established nation was and remains home to two major ethnic groups, Greek Cypriots who form the vast majority of the population, and Turkish Cypriots. Despite the provisions for power-sharing outlined in the agreement, tensions amounted to violent conflict between the groups and in 1964, the U.N. deployed the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus.
A short-lived coup initiated by the Greek Cypriots in 1974 attempted to dismantle the agreement between the British, Turkish and Greeks, seeking Cypriot unification with Greece. In response, Turkish troops entered the nation, causing a physical divide between the north and south that continues to this day. In 1983, the Turkish Cypriots announced annexation of the north, officially declaring the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus. This area is not considered a legitimate entity and continues to be separated from the official state, the Republic of Cyprus, by a United Nations buffer zone, referred to as the “Green Line.”
Following a series of peace talks, a 2004 referendum resulted in the failure of a carefully crafted proposal for unification. A contentious period followed until 2014 when a joint communique was issued between the Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders expressing joint support for renewed peace talks. Peace talks recommenced in 2015, with Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akinci and Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades agreeing to regular meetings mediated by the United Nations. Talks have been taking place ever since.
Despite concern about the impact of the Turkish referendum on discussions, peace talks resumed at the end of April after a two-month hiatus. Some continuing points of contention notwithstanding, consensus has been reached on a number of issues while some key points remain unresolved. If talks are successful and an outcome is reached, the final agreement would be presented to both communities in the form of a referendum.
54 years on from its authorization, the mission in Cyprus remains the longest running U.N. peacekeeping operation. With the recent U.S. decision to minimize their funding to the U.N., there is a realistic chance that the mission, which has already been significantly reduced, may be scaled back even further. This is exacerbated by the need to reallocate UN peacekeeping troops to more active conflict zones. It is hoped that any reduction in peacekeeping will coincide with further success in peace discussions; however, with Cyprus elections looming close in 2018, there is potential for renewed conflict.
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