September Peace Talks Begin in Earnest

The divided island of Cyprus, split between the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) and the Greek protected Republic of Cyprus, for 34 years, now sees a new round of peace talks, which began this morning (03/09/08). It is the fourth meeting between the leaders of the partitioned island since Demetris Christofias, head of the Greek Cypriot state, took office early this year.

Indeed, commentators are excited and intrigued. TRNC president Mehmet Ali Talat has been in power for three years, and has reiterated time and again a preference for reunification.

The stumbling block in the past, it seems, was former Republic of Cyprus president Tassos Papadopoulos, who favoured isolation from the Turkish Cypriots, and went as far as making the maintenance of the partition part of his governmental ideology when he took office in 2003. When the U.N led Annan Plan for unification came to referendum in 2004, he publicly advised Greek Cypriots to vote against the move, famously making the statement,"I received a state; I will not deliver a community".

Under Papadopoulos' presidency, then, reunification was an unlikely scenario. Indeed the Annan Plan referendum closed with a TRNC positive majority totaling close to 60%, and a negative majority of closer to 75% from the citizens of the Republic of Cyprus. As the referendum was predicated on acceptance from both sides of the island, reunification plans were scrapped.

But that might be about to change. new president Demetris Christofias, who - as leader of the communist based AKEL, or the 'Progressive Party for Working People' - will certainly want to turn the disparate states into one community. Indeed, he based a substantial part of his election campaign on the reunification of the island, marking him out immediately from Papadopolous. As leader of the internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus, Christofias has the support of the E.U behind him, and Talat now has the privilege of working alongside a man who has the same aim at heart; the destruction of the old, war torn barriers.

In fact the readiness of Christofias, and Talat's commitment to the cause, combined with Turkey's hankering for a place in the European Union - which the Union will not grant unless the Cyprus Dispute is settled - makes for an interesting diplomatic climate indeed. And of course, the great benefit will be for the Cypriot people, who will see a legitimate end to what can certainly be called a cold war, forgotten in many cases by the people of Europe, but for islanders is real enough to see 35,000 Turkish Troops still stationed in the TRNC of North Cyprus.

Early press reports are positive, and the prospect of progression looks good. With the two sides now committed, a true end to the dispute may well be on the horizon. At their last meeting, Mehmet Ali Talat stated that he wanted an official recognition of the need to reunite, plus some moves towards implementation, settled by the end of this year. Christofias concurred. Perhaps, when the September 3rd talks draw to a close, Cyprus will have its solution. It has been a long wait.

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Chris Woolfrey is an expert on the politics of Cyprus, and particularly the TRNC of North Cyprus. He writes for

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