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Negotiations for a Cyprus settlement - An historical review
CNA - Emilia Christofi - CYPRUS/Nicosia 07/01/2017 14:00

UN-sponsored talks to find a solution to the long-standing Cyprus issue are set to enter, next week, what many describe as a pivotal phase President of the Republic Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci meet in Geneva. They are expected to exchange maps on 11th January and then an international conference is scheduled to begin on January 12th with the three guarantor powers and relevant parties.

The Cyprus News Agency is attempting an historical review of efforts to solve the Cyprus issue through peace talks, outlining at the same time milestones in the Republic’s life which have marked its turbulent history so far.

Cyprus was officially declared a Republic on 16th August 1960 following the armed EOKA liberation struggle by the Greek Cypriots to free the island of British colonial rule. The 1959 Zurich and London Agreements that formed the basis for the independence of Cyprus were negotiated by Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom. Although they eventually signed these Agreements, the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot communities had no active role in their drafting or in the drafting of the Constitution for the new state.

The Agreements were to establish and guarantee the independence and sovereignty of the island, and the Constitution was to provide for the smooth democratic governance of the state and the welfare of the people of Cyprus.

However, certain provisions of the Agreements and the Constitution proved conducive to domestic conflict and foreign interference. The Constitution itself emphasised differences between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, thereby thwarting integration and encouraging divisive tendencies between them

Archbishop Makarios had raised his objection to certain provisions in the Zurich agreements, but signed them, fearing continued denial of independence and freedom, continued bloodshed and, possibly, the forced partition of Cyprus.

On 13th December 1959, the first presidential elections were held and Makarios won with 66.85% against his rival, Ioannis Clerides who garnered 33,15%. Fasil Kucuk was proclaimed vice president unopposed.

Shortly afterwards, Cyprus gained its independence, it became member of the United Nations and all its bodies and institutions, as well as member of the Council of Europe, the Commonwealth, the Non-Aligned Movement, the World Bank and the IMF and in May 2004 an EU member.
The constitution of the Republic categorized citizens as Greeks or Turks. Elected positions were filled by separate elections. Separate municipalities were established in each town and separate elections were to be held for all elected public posts. Posts filled by appointment and promotion, such as the civil service and police, were to be shared between Greeks and Turks at a ratio of 70 to 30. In the army this ratio rose to 60 to 40. The President was designated Greek and the Vice-President Turkish, each elected by their respective community. The Turkish Cypriot community also enjoyed vetoes in both the executive and legislative branches of the government. The Turkish-Vice President could block the decisions of the President whereas in the House of Representatives fiscal, municipal and electoral legislation required separate majorities.

The Turkish Cypriot leadership made full use of their constitutional privileges to block decisions of the government and render the administration of the young republic difficult and inefficient.

In 1963, after the Turkish members of the House of Representatives had rejected the budget, President Makarios decided to submit to the Turkish Cypriot Vice-President, for consideration, proposals for constitutional amendment. Despite the fact that his proposals aimed at removing certain causes of friction between the two communities and of the obstacles to the smooth functioning and development of the state, the government of Ankara opposed the amendments outright, even before their consideration by the Turkish Cypriots. The Turkish Cypriot leadership followed suit. In December 1963 tensions rose when police cars used by Turkish Cypriot policemen suspected of engaging in the distribution of weapons refused to submit to government inspection.

In December 1963 armed clashes broke out after an incident in central Nicosia where two Turkish Cypriots were killed. The clashes spread to other parts of Cyprus. The Turkish Cypriot ministers and members of Parliaments, policemen and civil servants left the government and operated in their own communities.

A buffer zone in Cyprus was first established in 1964, when Major-General Peter Young was the commander of the British peace force set up in the wake of the inter-communal violence of the early 1960s. After stationing his troops in different areas of Nicosia, the general drew a cease-fire line on a map with a green chinagraph pencil, which was to become known as the "Green Line". In 1964, the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces in Cyprus (UNFICYP) was set up by the Security Council to prevent further fighting between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities. UNFICYP is responsible for the Buffer Zone that separates the two sides. The Buffer Zone - also called ‘the Green Line’ - extends approximately 180 km across the island.

Talks between the two communities began in June 1968 between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots to no avail.

As a military dictatorship was established in Greece in 1967, relations between Cyprus and Greece became very strained. The junta was meddling with internal politics in Cyprus, much to the dismay of Makarios. The situation culminated on 15 July 1974 when the Athens regime instigated a coup by Greek army officers in Cyprus, seeking to achieve `enosis` - or union with Greece. Makarios was overthrown and fled to Britain.

Turkey found the pretext to impose its partitionist plans against Cyprus following the coup. On July 20, claiming to act under article 4 of the Treaty of Guarantee, the Turkish armed forces staged a full scale invasion against Cyprus. The coup quickly dissolved and Greece`s military junta collapsed.

A cease-fire was agreed on 23 July. In the absence of Archbishop Makarios, the then-President of the House of Representatives and Greek Cypriot negotiator Glafcos Clerides was installed as acting president.

On 14th August, after failed talks in Geneva, Turkey launched its second offensive Attila II, occupying Famagusta and Karpasia, thus solidifying its plans.

Makarios returned to Cyprus in December that year.

In February 1975, the Greek Cypriot side submitted proposals to the Turkish Cypriot side for a solution based on UN resolutions. Rauf Denktash however replied with the establishment of the “Turkish Federated State of Cyprus”, with himself becoming self-styled president.

The first high level agreement between Makarios and Denktash was achieved in 1977, in the presence of the then UN SG Kurt Waldheim which provided for the establishment of a bizonal, bicommunal federation in Cyprus.

In August 1977, Makarios passed away and Spyros Kyprianou became President. A second high level agreement in 1979 provided for the return of Famagusta to its lawful inhabitants, irrespective of the outcome of the negotiations for an overall settlement.

After many rounds of unsuccessful negotiations under the UN aegis, the Turkish Cypriots unilaterally declared their independence under the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”, recognised only by Ankara.

UN SG Peres De Guellar invited Kyprianou and Denktash to New York to take part in proximity talks. Despite reserved optimism, Denktash proceeded with a referendum for a new “constitution” for his illegal regime and any ideas for an international conference in January 1986 disappeared when Denktash brought more Turkish settlers to the occupied north and the number of occupation troops increased to 35,000.

In 1989, the new president of the Republic, George Vassiliou, began a new round of negotiations under new SG Boutros Ghali. He submits an “Outline Proposals for the Establishment of a Federal Republic and the Solution of the Cyprus Problem”, which were in accordance with the UN resolutions on Cyprus and the two High Level Agreements. Ghali submits his “set of ideas” while Denktash set new conditions that were not only contrary to the agreed basis for a solution but also contrary to the relevant UN resolutions.

As the Turkish side`s intransigence continued and worsened over 1990-1991, President Vassiliou applied for Cyprus to enter the European Union, representing the whole of the people of Cyprus.

Proximity talks continued based on the Ghali Set of Ideas, which was accepted by Vassiliou and rejected by Denktash and the majority of the Greek Cypriot political parties during an extraordinary meeting of the House in January 1993.

With Glafcos Clerides sworn in as new president of the Republic in March 1993, the government submitted proposals whereby it was ready to dismantle the National Guard and hand over its ammunition to UNFICYP.

In January 1994, Denktash agreed in principle to accept a package of confidence building measures allowing for proximity talks to begin in February leading to their implementation.

The UN shuttle diplomacy by Gustave Feissel, UN Secretary General`s Deputy Special Representative for Cyprus, continued but no progress was made and the Security Council was faced once again with the lack of political will from the Turkish Cypriot side.

In 1994, during the Corfu EU Summit, it was decided that the new phase of enlargement would include Cyprus and Malta.

During August 1996, tensions rose in Cyprus following the murder of two Greek Cypriot men in the buffer zone by the Turkish occupation forces, helped by extremist elements in the north. In its resolution 1092, the UN Security Council expressed deep concern over the escalation of the situation in Cyprus.

The talks that took place in Troutbeck, New York in 1997 ended with no result but good climate, as Clerides himself said. A new round of talks in Montreux, Switzerland, however failed to even produce any negotiations whatsoever.

Cyprus` accession negotiations were set to begin on 30th March 1998 with Clerides proposing former President Vassiliou to take charge and to include Turkish Cypriots in the negotiating team. However Denktash was negative, saying that if “the EU wished for the Turkish Cypriots’ participation, it should first acknowledge our state”.

Clerides was re-elected for a second term in February 1998 and decided in favour of the deployment of the Russian S-300 anti-air missiles to Crete instead of Cyprus, under a joint defence dogma with Greece.

Negotiations resumed in December 1999 to prepare the ground for substantial negotiations. New UNSG Kofi Annan submitted in November 2002 the first Annan Plan for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus Issue which envisaged a federation with two constituent parts, presided over by a rotating presidency. He submitted a second revised one only a month later.

In another development, the EU Summit in Copenhagen invited Cyprus to join the EU in 2004. This resulted with Turkish Cypriots protesting calling on Denktash to resign or accept the Annan Plan.

Clerides lost a third term in office to Tassos Papadopoulos, in February 2003. Papadopoulos had already rejected the Annan Plan. Annan visited Cyprus in February, submitting a revised third Annan Plan which Papadopoulos promised to submit to a referendum under several technical preconditions during the March 2004 talks in The Hague. Denktash however rejected it. The negotiations once again collapsed.

During their meeting in February 2004 in New York, Papadopoulos and Denktash decide on a new procedure to place the Annan Plan before simultaneous referenda to the two communities before the island`s accession to the EU on 1st May 2004. Between March 27-31 2004, Papadopoulos and the National Council travelled to Burgenstock, Switzerland for final negotiations and Annan submitted a fourth and finally a fifth revised version of his plan.

On his return to Cyprus, in a televised speech to the people of Cyprus, President Tassos Papadopoulos explained the reasons why a "resounding NO" vote on the Annan Plan was in the best interests "of the people of Cyprus as a whole, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots." On 24th April 2004, 76% of Greek Cypriots voted NO to the Annan while 62% voted in favour. Papadopoulos then launched an international campaign to explain why he rejected the plan.

On May 1st 2004 Cyprus became a full member of the European Union in the Dublin EU summit and in January 2008 entered the Eurozone.

In February 2008, Demetris Christofias becomes new president of the Republic. Together with Ali Talat, leader of the Republican Turkish Party in the north, the two leaders who share the same ideological views began negotiations.

According to Toumazos Tsielepis, who led the Christofias negotiating team , the two achieved convergences/progress on the chapters of governance, power sharing, the economy and EU issues.

No progress was achieved on the issues of territory, property and security and guarantees.

Talat was succeeded by hardliner Dervis Eroglu. Talks in Greentree, Long Island in New York, between 21-24 January  2012 did not produce results.

In September 2011, Cyprus announced the start of exploration in its Exclusive Economic Zone with Turkey calling the development illegal and sending a warship in the region.

In February 2013, Nicos Anastasiades was elected President of the Republic but the Cyprus problem was set aside as the island was struggling to avoid bankruptcy. Nicos Anastasiades faced weeks of difficult talks with foreign lenders on a three-year financial rescue that officially ended on March 31st 2016.

Anastasiades and Eroglu decided on a joint declaration on 11 February 2014 at the start of renewed negotiations to settle the Cyprus problem. The same year was marked by increased US interest and Vice President Joe Biden`s visit to the island.  Special Advisor Alexander Downer is replaced by Norwegian diplomat Espen Barth Eide. Anastasiades, with the backing of the National Council, suspends the Cyprus talks, calling on Turkey to annul its NAVTEX and withdraw its vessel from Cyprus` territorial waters.

Mustafa Akinci`s election to the Turkish Cypriot leadership gave the talks a new breath of fresh air in 2015 as President Anastasiades returns to the negotiating table and negotiations begin anew.

Following two rounds of talks in Mont-Pelerin, Switzerland in November 2016, during which they were not able to achieve the necessary further convergences on criteria for territorial adjustments that would have paved the way for the last phase of the talks, the two leaders decided on December 1st that they will meet in Geneva from the 9th to the 11th of January 2017, on the 11th of January they will present their respective maps and that from the 12th of January, a Conference on Cyprus will be convened with the added participation of the guarantor powers, while other relevant parties shall be invited as needed.


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