The European Parliament High-level contact Group for Relations with the Turkish Cypriot community has made its sixth visit to the island. The seven MEPs, representing the parliament’s political spectrum, welcomed the recent opening up of Ledra street, in Nicosia. Ledra symbolised, strongly, the division of Cyprus for decades. Its unblocking was the result of increasing moves towards detente brought about by the islanders’ own efforts.
EuroNews asked the coordinator of the European contact group, French MEP Francoise Grossetete, where she thought the next gesture of improving relations should come from. She said: “Turkey first. Turkey is imposing its army in the north of the island. I think Mr Erdogan (Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan) holds the keys. The EU must also be fully coherent about its will, and also get the message across to Turkey.”
By some estimates: Turkish mainland troops on Cyprus number 35,000… and of the Turkish Cypriot northern territory’s population of some 250,000, almost half were settled there by the Turkish government in the 1970s and ’80s. Turkish Cypriot negotiator Ozdil Nami says there is no way they will be deported in any deal-making. The 1974 Turkish invasion came in response to an Athens-backed coup aimed at uniting the island with Greece. One resort remains a no-man’s-land under Turkish military control. Other properties of Greek Cypriots who fled the north were later occupied by the Turkish immigrants. The former owners want their houses back. Till then, Greek Cypriot negotiator George Iacovou said they will not support a deal. Compensation, restitution and settlement policies are highly sensitive. The frustration is not only in the Greek south… Even Turkish Cypriots are upset by the scale of immigration. In a 2004 referendum, nearly two thirds of Turkish Cypriots approved a UN reunification plan while three quarters of Greek Cypriots voted “no.” MEP Mechtild Rothe, with the parliament contact group, made reference to this.
Rothe said Ankara must eventually give a definitive green light, and that it will be difficult for the Turkish government to react negatively if the Greeks and Turks of Cyprus, working together, make progress in the negotiations. As background to this: the classical reason the military in Ankara gives for launching what it called “Operation Atilla” in 1974 was ‘to protect Turkish Cypriots’. Just after the 2004 referendum, the Republic of Cyprus joined the European Union. Turkey is currently in negotiations to become a member. The 27 countries of the bloc are divided over whether to have Turkey among their number. In spite of the stack of complications, the contact group saw signs of momentum towards a deal on Cyprus.