Auteur: Peter Teffer
The leaders of the two parts of divided Cyprus gave a message of optimism about the island's reunification talks at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Thursday (21 January).
The two shared a stage at a panel debate at the conference in the Swiss Alps. At its close they were convinced by the debate's host to shake hands as “a symbolic gesture and photo opportunity”.
“I believe that 2016 could be the year that we end the unacceptable status quo”, said Cypriot president Nikos Anastiades, who leads the Greek part of the island, which is a member state of the European Union and the eurozone.
Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci leads the northern part of the Mediterranean island, where EU law is suspended until a final settlement is reached. Northern Cyprus is recognised as an independent state only by Turkey.
According to Akinci, negotiations have entered a “crucial phase”.
“I wish to reiterate the strong determination of Turkish Cypriots to reach a settlement based on bi-zonal federation with political equality, as well as European values and principles we all share”, said Akinci.
Cyprus became a divided island in 1974, just fourteen years after it gained independence from the United Kingdom. Following a coup d'etat by the Greek military junta, the Turkish army invaded the island.
In 2004, a peace plan failed after a large majority of Greek Cypriots voted it down in a referendum. As a result, Cyprus entered the EU that year de facto without the Turkish Cypriots.
“I am adamant that Europe and the European project holds many of the answers to the puzzle, that is the solution to the Cyprus problem,” said Anastiades.
“Let us not forget that Cyprus is, and will continue to be, a member state of the European Union. We must therefore approach all issues on the negotiating table through the prism of the EU”, the president added.
“A reunited Cyprus needs to be able to effectively participate and constructively facilitate the EU decision-making rather than hinder it”, Anastiades noted, adding that reunification would have “significant ramifications for Europe”.
One such consequence may be in the field of energy. The discovery of offshore gas near the island “will act as a source of peace and cooperation rather than conflict and tension”, according to Akinci.
“United Cyprus will be able to serve as a hub for pipelines, transferring natural gas to European Union, through Cyprus and Turkey, which seems to be the most feasible route”, said Akinci.
“It will also improve the relations between all relevant actors, including EU, Turkey, Greece and the future united Cyprus”, the Turkish Cypriot leader added.
Anastiades said a united Cyprus “can be a decisive factor to achieving energy security for the European Union”.