Greek and Turkish Cypriots have moved farther apart since a failed summit in 2017, hampering cooperation in several important matters and increasing tensions in the eastern Mediterranean. Hopes for reunifying Cyprus are faint at present, but the parties can still work toward more modest goals.
Republic of Cyprus continued push to reignite reunification talks with European Union (EU) involvement, while Turkish President Erdoğan reiterated support for two states.
Greek Cypriot leaders sought return to 2017 dialogue, as Türkiye reiterated position. Republic of Cyprus President Nikos Christodoulides 7 June expressed readiness to meet with “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (“TRNC”) leader Ersin Tatar “even tomorrow” to discuss reunification talks. President of House of Representatives in Republic of Cyprus Annita Demetriou 13 June underscored “the Greek Cypriot side will continue to exert every effort for the resumption of negotiations from where they stopped in Crans Montana [in 2017]”. During his first foreign trip following his re-election, Erdoğan 12 June met Tatar in “TRNC” and reiterated support for two-state solution, adding “Cyprus does not have another 50 years to lose” and urging international community to recognise “TRNC”. In his address to EU parliament next day, Christodoulides continued efforts to involve EU and asserted “EU has every interest and obligation to actively contribute to the final settlement of the Cyprus problem”. European Council 25 June pledged to continue to have “active role” in supporting peace process; Republic of Cyprus FM Constantinos Kombos welcomed inclusion of reference. UN Special Representative Colin Stewart 26 June met Tatar, describing “positive exchange of opinions”.
In other important developments. Spain and Poland suspended their participation on first day of 5-16 June military exercises with Türkiye and “TRNC”-dubbed Anatolian Phoenix naval drills following protest by Republic of Cyprus. News on social media 7 June reported Greek Cypriot man had allegedly attacked Turkish Cypriot woman in holiday resort Ayia Napa in Republic of Cyprus; “TRNC” 5 June denounced “racist attack” and called for justice.
In mid-2020, Turkey and Greece put their Mediterranean fleets on high alert, dramatically raising tensions in their long-running dispute over air, water, rock and now seabed gas deposits as well. Talks have been frustrating but remain the best way to contain the risk of conflict.
Greece and Turkey have stepped back from the brink of military confrontation over gas exploration in disputed waters in the Mediterranean Sea. But trouble still looms. European leaders should welcome signs of conciliation from Athens and Ankara and nudge them toward talks.
To avoid another failed effort at federal reunification in the new round of Cyprus negotiations, all sides should break old taboos and discuss all possible options, including independence for Turkish Cypriots within the European Union.
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