Second reunification referendum in Cyprus on horizon
REUTERS photoA second simultaneous referendum on Cypriot reunification could take place in early 2016 following negotiations between the two entities’ presidents, a Turkish government source said July 2.
“We are at the threshold of an important development,” said the source, who asked not to be named. “The two leaders have started to get into substantial issues. They are proceeding well and we hope the process will accelerate in the fall. There might be a new referendum in the early months of 2016, depending on the developments.”
A first referendum for reunification that was held on April 24, 2004, on both sides of the island based on a plan by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan was approved by the Turks but rejected by the Greeks. On May 1, 2004, Greek Cyprus was accepted as a member of the European Union, purportedly representing the Turkish side as well, despite protests from Turkish Cyprus and Turkey. The issue remains one of the biggest obstacles between the EU and Turkey, meaning membership negotiations have largely stalled since then.
The source also said that if the Greek Cypriot side ceased claiming the island to be a “Hellenic Island” and focus on a “federation based on the equality of two constituent states,” a solution could be reached very quickly.
But even if not, “the current status cannot continue for another 50 years,” the source said. “That is the mood in the U.N. as well. Then the parties could sit and talk on a peaceful separation for two independent states.”
But Ankara has entertained optimism for the time being, believing that a solution could be near. “Such a development could improve Turkey’s relations with Greece and the EU as well,” the source said. “An obstacle and a pretext blocking Turkey’s relations with the West will be removed.”
Ankara also believes that a solution to the Cyprus problem could improve peace and economic cooperation in the entire Eastern Mediterranean with new sources of natural gas found off of Cyprus and Israel.
The statement of the Turkish official came on the same day as Greek Cypriot President Nikos Anastasiades told Reuters that “negotiations to settle Cyprus’s division are starting to show some progress.”
Underlining that “convergences” had started to appear in negotiations on specific topics under discussion, Anastasiades said: “A degree of progress is being achieved. If we continue at this rate, I believe that soon we can start to speak of significant progress.”
Cyprus’ Greek and Turkish communities have lived estranged since 1974, when Turkey’s military intervened in the island’s north in response to a right-wing, Greek-inspired coup started an ethnic cleansing campaign against Turks living on the island.
Anastasiades’ statement came a day after Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akıncı met the speaker of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, during which expressed his government’s commitment to a solution on the island.
Akıncı was elected as the new president of Turkish Cyprus in April with promises to work for a reunification based on the political equality of Greeks and Turks on the island.