Greek Cyprus overturns ‘Enosis’ bill days before resumption of peace talks
NICOSIAJust a few days before the stalled Cyprus peace talks are set to resume, the Greek Cypriot parliament overturned the law that called for the celebration of a 1950 referendum seeking unification with Greece to be celebrated in schools, the main cause that led to a breakdown in talks.
U.N.-backed negotiations aimed at reuniting the eastern Mediterranean island came to a standstill in February in a row over Greek Cypriot schools marking the anniversary of the 1950 referendum supporting “Enosis,” or union with Greece.
Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı has told his Greek Cypriot counterpart Nicos Anastasiades and U.N. envoy for Cyprus Espen Barth Eide that the talks could restart after the bill was overturned.
Following a heated parliamentary debate, an amended bill was passed on April 7 by 30 votes to 20.
The bill was put forward by Anastasiades’s ruling conservative Disy party and was backed by the opposition communist Akel.
In the original vote, Disy MPs abstained, allowing the bill to pass after it was proposed by the far-right Elam.
A few dozen Elam supporters demonstrated outside parliament on April 7 urging lawmakers not to back down with a banner saying “Disy-Akel are murdering history,” AFP reported.
The U.N. announced on April 4 that the two leaders would meet in Nicosia under the auspices of the U.N. to resume the peace talks, which had taken a long pace in its 22-months-long journey since May 2015.
Since the bill passed in February, a climate of trust between the sides has deteriorated, with each blaming the other for the deadlock.
Akıncı said April 7 that the island’s reunification talks would restart after the Greek Cypriot administration moved to reverse the controversial law.
“We should work to make a new start and found a new structure in which conditions for peace will prevail,” Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency quoted Akıncı as saying in a written statement.
“We do not have much time left. We are really at a juncture. I hope and wish that all of the parties will act with the awareness of this reality,” Akıncı added.
The eastern Mediterranean island has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops intervened in its northern third in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking unity with Greece.