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Cyprus: Options for a Solution

Cyprus, unfortunately, remains a divided nation. As we know, this is a state of affairs that has persisted since the Turkish invasion in 1974, establishing the controversial de-facto state in the occupied northern part of the island.

It is a sad state of affairs to reflect on the fact that Cyprus had only been independent of the United Kingdom for a mere 14 years before it was then torn asunder by the Turkish invasion of 1974.

Despite being roundly condemned by the international community, and the de-facto northern state only being recognized by Turkey, the divide has lingered to the present day. This is not an issue that is simply going to go away overnight.

There are a whole range of imperialistic, geopolitical and strategical factors at play here and consequently, passions run high when the question of Cyprus comes to the table of discussion. At times, it almost seems beyond resolution. But is it though? What realistic options are available for a solution to the Cypriot issue?

A Federal Solution?

A federal solution for the Cypriot issue has been in the political air since the partition in 1974. It continues to have support from all the main players who are intimate to the Cyprus problem: the United Nations, the European Union, the United States, Greece, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.

Support for federalism has also historically been garnered in the Greek-Cypriot political parties of AKEL, EDI, and DISY, as well as in the Turkish-Cypriot political parties of CTP, TDP, BKP, and YKP.

This is an interesting dynamic of the appeal of federalism in both Greek and Turkish-Cypriot political circles – the transcendent nature of the appeal of federalism.

For example, AKEL (Progressive Party of Working People) is a major Greek-Cypriot left-wing party that favors a federal solution for Cyprus.

In contrast, EDI (United Democrats) is a liberal, progressive party that also favors a federal solution for Cyprus, as well as the BKP (United Cyprus Party) – another Turkish-Cypriot left-wing party that subscribes to a federally unified future for Cyprus.

And further to right on the political scale, DISY (Democratic Rally) is a Greek-Cypriot conservative, right-leaning political party that also backs an ultimate federal solution to the Cypriot issue.

Similarly, in the Turkish-Cypriot side, the CTP (Republican Turkish Party) is a social democratic party which, among other ideas, has the objective of uniting Cyprus on a federal, two state, one nation basis.

Similar in ideology is the TDP (Communal Democracy Party) – a left-leaning, social democratic party that also shares the objective of unifying Cyprus through federalism.

It is, therefore, reasonable to state that federalism across the island of Cyprus enjoys broad multi-party support, irrespective of either ideology or the Green Line.

Consequently, this culminated in 2004, with the now late Kofi Annan, then Secretary-General of the United Nations, proposing the “Annan Plan” for a federated Cyprus, as a way to break the historical Cypriot log-jam. Annan stated: “This plan is inevitably a compromise. It does not satisfy everyone’s demands. But I believe it meets the core interests and addresses the key concerns, of people on both sides.”

A UN Peacekeeper gazes at an old poster in the buffer zone. (Eskinder Debebe)

Federalism has of course been a successful political model for any number of nations and Annan’s plan offered a Cypriot version of the same, restructuring of the Republic of Cyprus into the federated United Republic of Cyprus.

The Annan Plan was put before the citizens of all Cyprus in 2004. While gaining majority support of Turkish-Cypriots, when coming to the crunch time of the actual referendum, it was disappointingly rejected by a majority of the Greek-Cypriots.

Despite the failure of the Annan plan, healthy support for Cypriot federalism, on both sides of the Green Line, persists to this day. The dream of a federal solution for Cyprus may well yet succeed, subject to a consensual political will on both sides of the Cypriot divide to do so.

In 2016, US Vice-President Joe Biden confirmed the Obama administration’s support for a federal solution to the Cyprus issue.

Federalism has long lingered in the political psyche of resolution for Cyprus, both north and south, since partition in 1974. Its longevity may ultimately be its most redeeming feature in the longer term.

The Unitary Solution?

Under this proposal, the keystone is the recognition of the original Republic of Cyprus on a “single-player” basis. To clarify, this is a Cyprus that is free of union with either Greece or Turkey and also firmly outside of any federal or partitioned solution.

Historically, the people of Cyprus have found themselves engaged, whether they like it or not, in a historical tug-of-war match between the dominant powers of the Aegean, Greece, and Turkey. A unitary solution would dispense with that game as Cypriots seek to forge their own destiny free from external influence since it rejects the “treaty of guarantee.” This treaty is part of the “Treaty of Nicosia,” concerning the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus. In this treaty, parties (Cyprus, United Kingdom, Greece, and Turkey) undertake to guarantee the independence and territorial integrity of Cyprus, and not to promote the union of Cyprus with other states or partition of the Island. The parties also agree that the integrity of the areas of the island under United Kingdom sovereignty shall also be respected. So, the majority of the ones who support unitary solution for Cyprus believes that this treaty gives foreign powers right to intervene to Cyprus’s and Cypriots’ internal affairs and this has to be abolished.

Political parties that support this idea in the Greek-Cypriot community include EDEK (Movement for Social Democracy) and DIKO (Democratic Party), while in the Turkish-Cypriot community, support can be found within WUTC – the World Union of Turkish-speaking Cypriots.

WUTC fervently believes in the removal of what it sees as the illegal Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus and the unification of all Cyprus under one flag, free of rule or affinity with either Ankara or Athens.

When we look at the overall concept of unitary solution, except opposing the “Treaty of Guarantee,” the organizations and people who support the unitary solution are basically defending the current Republic of Cyprus to continue with its 1960 constitution. It makes this type of solution the shortest cut for the ending of the illegal Turkish occupation and the liberation of Cyprus. And since all parties including Greece and Turkey have already accepted the 1960 constitution, there won’t be the need for waiting and wasting another 44 years to solve the Cyprus issue.

The Status Quo?

Better the devil we know? Well, maybe, at an absolute stretch, but the argument for maintaining the current state of affairs of a divided Cyprus enjoys only minimal support from biased minority political parties.

Take, for example, the YDP (Rebirth Party) whose over-riding objective is “allegiance to the Turkish motherland” and “to ensure the survival of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.” This political party is only representing Muslim Turkish settlers who arrived in Cyprus from Turkish Anatolia after the 1974 occupation. They are the people that Turkey sent to Cyprus with the purpose of colonizing the northern part of the island and make social and cultural oppression against Turkish-Cypriots, who are an extremely secular European community. This plan seems to be pretty successful since the Turkish-Cypriot population is only a tenth of these illegal Turkish settlers. And Turkish-Cypriots still continuing to leave the island today.

At the other extreme, one must consider the ultranationalist ELAM (National Popular Front) movement. An off-shoot of the highly dubious Golden Dawn movement in mainland Greece, ELAM seeks to reinforce Greek identity with the “Greek homeland” idea and such efforts will just cause to deepen the current situation. This party has the support of the majority of the mainland Greek-origin community in Cyprus, as well as the Greeks who immigrated from Minor Asia and Pontus.

So as we can see from the supporter and ideological backgrounds, neither YDP or ELAM are representative of the true feelings and aspirations of native Cypriots. But today, they have some number of people behind them which are living in Cyprus. So, it is then fair to say that status quo trains of thought clearly draw support from the fringe elements in the people who are living in Cyprus and has voting right.

Just the very idea that with these kinds of “foreign” efforts and ideologies in a hundred years time, the question of a partitioned Cyprus could still be an issue, makes the mind boggle.

Inaction is no action.


The Cypriot issue is in good company. It joins the ranks of those other twentieth-century political quandaries, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Northern Ireland, and the Kashmir dispute. Solutions have been suggested and partly implemented, but so far to no avail.

The status quo in Cyprus is only transient and exists only until such time as a meaningful lasting solution can be found. Yet, the terms of that solution remain elusive, at least for now.

The key, surely, to a lasting resolution for Cyprus, like so many other seemingly intractable issues that have subsequently been resolved, lies in there being agreed compromise between all significant players and vested interests.

The division of Cyprus is, compared to other geopolitical quandaries, relatively short-lived (although that is not in any way to demean from the gravity of the situation). Cypriots and those outside of Cyprus, committed to unity for the island, should take at least some comfort from the fact that other seemingly intractable problems have been resolved – think South Africa or Northern Ireland.

Is a permanent solution for Cyprus a tough question to resolve? Undoubtedly.

However, is a permanent solution for Cyprus forever out of reach? Absolutely not.