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By Peter Stevenson MEMBERS of Volunteer Doctors Cyprus have treated around 350 people at their free clinic in Nicosia since it opened three months ago, while two more, one in Paphos and one in Polis are due to open today. Limassol also has a free clinic, which was opened only last month, and plans have been drawn ...
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SOME 10 days ago, foreign minister Ioannis Kasoulides raised expectations by announcing the possibility of a deal with Turkey for the opening of the fenced off area of Famagusta, for the return of its inhabitants. In exchange the Cyprus government would agree to the opening of Tymbou airport to direct flights. ...
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By George Psyllides PRIVATE auditors have expressed doubt the electricity authority (EAC) could be considered a going concern and have asked its board to draft a credible plan to tackle the problem, according to the auditor-general’s 2012 report on the semi-state company. Among other issues, ...
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Cyprus Internet Directory [ Best chance yet for a Cyprus settlement ]

Best chance yet for a Cyprus settlement

NOBODY HAS ever lost money betting on the failure of the Cyprus peace process. But this year, the best chance in decades to end this conflict has quietly crept up on local and international policy makers, and the European Union now has one last opportunity to undo past mistakes.

The first to switch direction were the Turkish Cypriots and Turkey, both eager to get closer to the EU. In 2004, the 250,000 Turkish Cypriots voted out their hardline leader, Rauf Denktash, and agreed to the so-called Annan Plan, a United Nations-mediated, EU-approved plan for a new Cyprus federation and a Turkish troop pullout.

The 750,000 Greek Cypriots, though, voted overwhelmingly to reject the Annan plan. Perversely, they were immediately rewarded for this intransigence with full EU membership.

Then the law of unintended consequences kicked in. EU membership has empowered Greek Cypriots to believe that they can at last negotiate a fair deal with the Turkish Cypriots, who are backed by Turkey’s military might. At the same time, Greek Cypriots began to fear that the uncompromising policies of their hard-line leader, Tassos Papadopoulos, were going to create a Kosovo-style Turkish Cypriot state on their doorstep.

So in February, the Greek Cypriot electorate voted in pragmatic communist Demetris Christofias, who campaigned for concessions with the Turkish Cypriots. Since coming to power, he has broken many taboos, backed by an even more strongly pro-settlement opposition party, the Democratic Rally.

He has accepted that Greek Cypriots may share responsibility for the conflict. He sent a wreath and a representative to the funeral of an exhumed Turkish Cypriot killed in the 1960s intercommunal violence and met Turkish visitors who entered Cyprus directly from Turkey. On April 3, the two sides opened a new crossing in the heart of Nicosia’s old city.

Christofias’ initiatives went beyond mere confidence building. He accepted that there will be a Turkish Cypriot Constituent State after a settlement. He told his people that a deal wouldn’t bring the return of all Greek Cypriot refugees displaced during Turkey’s 1974 invasion. And he said he is ready to accept that 50,000 of the Turkish immigrants who have since moved to the north can stay in their adopted homeland.

This newfound taste for compromise is driven as much by economic necessity as by political pragmatism. The Greek Cypriot business community as well as the liberal media realise that by normalising relations with Turkey, the island could re-launch a sagging tourism sector and better profit as a hub for financial and other services. Egypt, Lebanon, Israel, the Palestinians and especially the Syrians – until this decade, the Greek Cypriots’ anti-Turkish torch bearer in the Arab world – are increasingly turning to Turkey, with the biggest and most dynamic economy in the region. And most Greek Cypriots now accept that compromise is the only way to get compensation for lost property and win the withdrawal of the 25,000 to 43,000 Turkish troops from the island.

This is remarkable progress, suggesting the two sides could hammer out a deal within the next 12 months. On March 21, they formed 13 working groups and technical committees to discuss the basis of a settlement. On May 23, Christofias and the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mehmet Ali Talat, agreed on the outlines of a future agreement. They managed, linguistically at least, to square the circle between Greek Cypriot demands for unity and Turkish Cypriot demands for autonomy. One diplomat believes the two leaders “seem to have it all stitched up already.”

Walking the balmy streets of Nicosia, it’s hard to feel the dispute in Cyprus. Amid honey-stoned British colonial villas and palm tree-lined roads full of gleaming sports cars, the island looks more like a prosperous East Mediterranean emirate than a frozen conflict. Yet the status quo is as deceptive as ever.

With the island’s Greek Cypriot part now in the EU, failure in these talks will come at a cost of internal problems for Europe as EU-member Cyprus and NATO-member Turkey seek more institutional ways to punish each other; a new risk of new military tensions between Turkey and Greek Cypriots in the Mediterranean; long years of alienation in EU-Turkey relations; and more political confusion and nationalism in Turkey as it loses its EU compass.

In short, it’s time for European leaders to put Cyprus on the front burner. What better way to demonstrate the EU’s relevance after the Irish treaty rejection than by bringing peace to Cyprus? Spreading democracy and prosperity has been the EU’s most noble goal and biggest success. It can do so again by helping Christofias and Talat get right in 2008 what everyone got so badly wrong in 2004.

n Hugh Pope, author of Sons of the Conquerors: the Rise of the Turkic World, is a senior analyst for the International Crisis Group, which just published a new report on the Cyprus dispute

(Source: Cyprus Mail)

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