Cyprus Reunification - Why it is Important to the International Community

This week, Senator Barack Obama beat John McCain in the presidential elections for the USA, to become the first black president of the country. Citizens of nations across the world are heralding the news as a triumph, calling the ascension of a citizen of African-American descent to the White House a 'world changing' event.

Ramifications of the appointment will tremor throughout the world. Already, the British press is discussing the potential reconciliation of the 'special relationship' with America, with Gordon Brown being one of Obama's long standing and most vocal supporters; the Republicans, in the run up to the result, even accused Brown of breaking international political tradition and implicitly backing Senator Obama with his continual words of encouragement.

Sarkozy and Merkel, president of France and Chancellor of Germany respectively, have also offered their support, and opinion polls prior to the election showed landslide majorities for Senator Obama in Europe's most powerful nations.

The world, then, looks set for a change, and the importance of it cannot be denied. But as one continent sees vast change, as the states of America unite to vote in their first black president, the small island of Cyprus, nestled between Greece and Turkey in the Mediterranean sea, is patiently waiting for a solution to its own problem.

Cyprus Reunification and the Cyprus Problem

Since 1974, when Turkey invaded North Cyprus to protect the island under the treaty of guarantee - Greek Cypriots had mounted a coup just months earlier - Cyprus has been partitioned. Several attempts, generally from outside the island, in the international diplomatic community, have failed to reunify the island.

This is largely due to the long standing presidencies of Rauf Denktash in North Cyprus and Tassos Papadopoulos in the Republic of Cyprus.Both were staunch isolationists, and refused for some years to even enter into negotiations.

In 2004, though, the brilliant work of former Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, led to the acceptance of the Annan Plan Referendum in 2004. Each side of the island was allowed to vote on reunification of the island, and if both North Cyprus and the Republic of Cyprus voted in favour of Cyprus Reunification, then the two presidents agreed to take to reunification.

Unfortunately the persuasive powers of Tassos Papadopoulos meant the the Greek Cypriots voted 'no' to the referendum, though North Cyprus voted 'yes'.

The New Presidencies

One part of the reason that North Cyprus voted 'yes' was the effort of their then-prime minister Mehmet Ali Talat, who defied Rauf Denktash in his attempts to curb positive voting.

He then took over from Denktash as president in 2005, and has since pushed heavily on the island and in Ankara, for a reunification settlement. From there, he was joined by Dimitris Christofias at the start of this year, who replaced Papadopoulos and also pledged to solve the Cyprus reunification issue.

So as Barack Obama takes office in January, and begins to try to right the wrongs of American foreign policy and the Bush administration, perhaps we will also see the return of the island of Cyprus to a unified island, thanks to the efforts of Dimitris Christofias and Mehmet Ali Talat.

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Martin Gavin is an expert on world politics and the Cyprus Reunification issue. He writes for

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