The Council of Europe has again been the forum for one of the leading protagonists in the Cyprus dispute to give a progress report on how the island’s Greek and Turkish communities are inching towards agreement.
Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat regrets his people’s political isolation, but says negotiations have improved: “Actually this is not a matter of trust to the Greek Cypriot side in general terms, it is a matter of being able to share power. If we can agree on a structure, in other words to make power sharing, then we have to trust each other.”
Just hours previously the Council had heard the Cypriot President Demetris Christofias offer to open ports and airports in the southern Greek half of the partitioned island to commercial Turkish Cypriot traffic.
Since 1974 and the Turkish invasion of the north Turkish Cypriot businesses have had to trade exclusively through Turkey, the only country to recognise self-declared Northern Cyprus. It has been a major brake on economic development.
Apart from power-sharing the key to any reunification will be the return of expropriated homes and land on both sides of the UN-monitored ceasefire line. “It is a big problem, it affects every individual, everybody wants something, and something different from the other one. So in order to reconcile all this, in order to… I mean, make the people to be satisfied, I mean we will work a lot,” promised Talat.
The division of Cyprus, whose Greek inhabitants already enjoy the benefits of EU membership, is a major obstacle to Turkish EU membership.