Cyprus Unification Deal May Happen in 2016, Government Says

  • IMF, World Bank providing technical help in Cyprus talks
  • Negotiations on island’s reunification resumed Wednesday

After more than 40 years of division, the government of Cyprus is pushing for the island to be reunified in the next six months.

Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci both understand the need to end the “unacceptable status quo and reunify Cyprus as a federal state and that’s important in itself,” Cyprus Government Spokesman Nikos Christodoulides said, before the the two leaders resumed negotiations for the reunification of the island on Wednesday.

Mustafa Akinci and Nicos Anastasiades
Mustafa Akinci and Nicos Anastasiades
Photographer: Iakovos Hatzistavrou/AFP via Getty Images

The Mediterranean island has been divided along ethnic lines since 1974 into the Republic of Cyprus in the south and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus after Turkey invaded the island to prevent its unification with Greece. Turkey keeps about 35,000 troops in northern Cyprus and is the only country to recognize a Turkish Cypriot state.

The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are assisting in the talks, providing technical support on topics including fiscal policy within a reunited Cyprus and estimating economic consequences of reunification. Both institutions are highlighting, among others, that the federal government must be able to function and not be burdened financially, Christodoulides said last week in an interview in Nicosia, Europe’s only divided capital.

Past Mistakes

“Our aim is to reach a comprehensive settlement, in line with European Union law, values and principles, as soon as possible, and if feasible within 2016,” Christodoulides said. Both sides should strive to discuss all aspects of the chapters of governance, property, economy and the EU in order to start discussions on issues related to chapters of territory and security and guarantees, he said.

Anastasiades and Akinci agreed to intensify reunification talks at their meeting on Wednesday, the United Nations in Cyprus said in an e-mailed statement. The two leaders will meet twice a week, beginning June 17, to resolve remaining issues “in an agreed structured manner,” according to the statement.

Christodoulides said any new plan would need to include all the components of a settlement, including what day 1 of reunification would look like and the financial viability of the federal state.

The only other time Cyprus came close to a settlement solution was in 2004 with the United Nations-brokered blueprint for a bi-communal federation that was accepted by Turkish Cypriots and rejected by Greek Cypriots.

“We want to avoid repeating the mistakes made then, which led to the ‘No’ vote,” Christodoulides said.

Vital Turkey

“Turkey’s role to the process is not only necessary but vital so as to reach a settlement,” he said. “We hope and expect that the verbal assurances by Turkey of its desire to reach a settlement will be at last tested in practice; through, among others, rendering its unequivocal encouragement and support to the leader of the Turkish-Cypriot community, and adopting concrete steps that will decisively contribute to the negotiating process.”

Christodoulides said he’s hoping for common sense to prevail in Turkey. Turkish membership talks with the EU have been restarted as part of an agreement to control the flow of immigrants, but some chapters of the talks are blocked by Turkey’s refusal to recognize Cyprus.

“We believe that a rational thinking Turkey will see the strong benefits for the country in the case of a solution, including revitalizing EU-Turkey relations, EU-NATO relations, and contributing towards realizing Turkey’s strategic objective of becoming an energy hub in the region,” he said.

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