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Cyprus: 50 years of division with no sign of settlement

On July 20, 1974, the Turkish army invaded northern Cyprus five days after an attempted coup by Greek-Cypriot nationalists to attach the island to ;agrave; Greece. Fifty years later, the situation is frozen, the country cut off from control. in two and the population resigned.

A buffer zone controlled by the United Nations crosses the Mediterranean island from east to west and bears witness to this unresolved conflict. Nicosia is the last divided capital in the world.

Ghost villages, watchtowers, streets closed by concrete blocks, bags of cement and barbed wire, points of passage with controls: the island where the Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot communities live side by side remains deeply marked by the events of 1974.

And the successive failures of several rounds of negotiations leave little room for optimism for many Cypriots, like George Fialas, a Greek-Cypriot veteran of the conflict.

Reunification was “a lost cause”, he told AFP, and “I don't think we will return to it”.

Another Greek Cypriot, Demetris Toumazis, was due to finish his national service on July 20, 1974. Instead, he found himself fighting the Turkish army before being taken prisoner and taken to Turkey where he returned three months later to a divided homeland.

“No one expected things to happen as they happened, and it has been 50 years now that there is still no solution and there is no hope,” Mr. Toumazis confided to AFP.

– History punctuated by conflicts –

The invasion was the culmination of a period of conflict in the island's history. A British colony from 1878, Cyprus became independent in 1960.

Cyprus: 50 years of division with no sign of settlement

Cyprus © AFP – Julia Han JANICKI, Valentina BRESCHI

The United Kingdom, Greece, Turkey and the Cypriot leaders had negotiated the independence of the island within the framework of a Constitution which notably guaranteed the representation of the Turkish Cypriots, who occupy the northern third of the island and then represented around 18% of the population.

This system, which prohibited both the union with Greece or Turkey and the partition of the island, s collapsed at the end of 1963 in a context of intercommunal violence.

And after the invasion, the north of the island unilaterally declared its independence as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) in 1983, a state recognized only by Turkey, which maintains thousands of soldiers on the island.

The United Nations, whose peacekeeping forces patrol the buffer zone, is pushing for new talks to take place between the TRNC and the Republic of Cyprus, the only internationally recognized one and a member of the EU since 2004, but which in practice only exercises its authority over the southern part.

But in the eyes of Stefan Talmon, professor at the University of Bonn and specialist in Cyprus, progress is unlikely: “any solution would involve each party making compromises and giving up their sole decision-making power for their community, but I think neither party is interested,” he explains to AFP.

– “Living de facto” –

The last round of negotiations failed in 2017. Since then, Northern Cyprus has elected leader Ersin Tatar, a hard-liner – amid allegations of interference from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Turkey – who insists on a two-state solution, rejected by the Republic of Cyprus.

Cyprus: 50 years of division with no sign of settlement

Turkish soldiers patrol a street in Yialia on September 9, 1974 after Turkey invaded Cyprus the previous July 22 © AFP – –

“We have had at least two or three generations who have never known a united Cyprus, and I assume that each side has come to terms with the current situation,” says Mr. Talmon.

Huseyin Silman, a 40-year-old Turkish-Cypriot from Nicosia, says his parents are still “traumatized”, “opposed to any reunification” and that they think that “Greek Cypriots” are “not trustworthy”.

The forty-year-old working for the Global Policies Center think tank, however, wants to be optimistic, banking on the young generations who grew up in a different world and changing attitudes.

But for Mr. Talmon, “both parties have found a way to live de facto in this situation”.

All rights of reproduction and representation reserved. © (2024) Agence France-Presse

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116