Sunday, March 23, 2008

Budding Reconciliation in Cyprus

Friday, the recently elected president of Cyprus, Dimitris Christofias, sat down with Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat to discuss ways to end the 30-year division of the island. Cyprus is a former British colony that became a Commonwealth country in 1961. In 1974, violence broke out between Turkish and Greek Cypriots, and the Greek military junta in power at the time sponsored an attempt to bring the island under Greek control. The Turkish military stepped in, displacing thousands of Cypriots (see the European Court of Human Rights case Loizidou, for example) and occupying an area recognized only by Turkey as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Since then, the island has been tensely divided into a southern section controlled by Cyprus, a smaller northern section controlled by Turkey (or the TRNC), and about 5% split between British sovereign bases and the UN Green line area between the Cypriot and Turkish areas. The dividing line runs through Cyprus’s capitol city, Nicosia, where Christofias and Talat met with UN special representative to Cyprus, Michael Moller. Christofias was elected just a month ago, and announced within hours that he would meet with Talat to find a way to resolve differences in the interests of the Cypriot people. Christofias and Talat (photo, credit) are on friendly terms and prefer to emphasize agreement rather than disagreement (such as on whether or not to pursue the UN peace plan rejected by Greek voters in 2004). Moving amazing quickly, they’ll be taking concrete (pun intended) steps as of tomorrow, when work will begin on blocking access to the numerous abandoned and dilapidated buildings in the green zone and tearing down the aluminum and plastic wall that divides the pedestrian shopping street running through both halves of Nicosia. Cypriots should be able to cross from north to south and vice versa along this road within a week. Shades of trade brings peace?

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