Direct talks take place today in Geneva between Cypriot President Nikos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı in what have been called “the best and last chance” to achieve a settlement of the decades long conflict which has divided the island nation.
The direct talks between Anastasiades and Akıncı are preparatory for a formal conference commencing in Geneva on 12th January 2017, which will bring not only these two leaders together but also the so-called “guarantor powers” – Greece, Turkey and Britain.
Britain is participating in the talks as Cyprus’s former colonial power and as one of the guarantors of Cyprus’s independence and territorial integrity following Cyprus’s 1950s independence war against Britain.
The talks between Anastasiades and Akıncı are the first direct talks between the leaders of Cyprus’s Greek and Turkish communities in 43 years – since the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974. Supposedly they will be poring over maps and discussing territorial trade-offs before discussing the central issue of security.
The ultimate plan is to agree some of federation that will bring together the two parts of the island, ending one of Europe’s and the world’s most intractable conflicts.
There are many obstacles in the way of a settlement, and a final agreement is far from guaranteed. However there does seem to be a serious effort underway to seek a solution.
All the parties have strong reasons to seek a settlement, though not it should be stressed at any price, ensuring that the negotiations which lie ahead will be long and hard.
In the case of Turkey, which is facing multiple crises in its relations with Syria, Iraq and the US, which is struggling against terrorist campaigns launched against it by ISIS and the Kurds, and which is looking at the early stages of a possible economic crisis, settlement of the Cyprus conflict would not only be a success for President Erdogan but would mean that his government has one less problem to deal with.
In the case of Greece, a settlement of the Cyprus conflict would at last provide the otherwise disastrous Syriza government of Alexis Tsipras with a success.
For the people of Cyprus, divided from each other for 43 years, it would finally end the division of their island and their country, and bring them peace.