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BACKGROUND ON CYPRUS AND THE CYPRUS PROBLEM
2002-05-01 14:05:15

Introduction

On January 16th the President of the Republic of Cyprus Glafcos Clerides and the Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash commenced face to face peace talks to try to resolve the Cyprus problem. The agreement for direct negotiations resulted from a recent meeting between President Clerides and Mr. Denktash. Both sides have agreed that all issues will be on the table,there will be no preconditions, they will continue to negotiate in good faith until a comprehensive settlement is achieved and nothing will be agreed until everything is agreed.

Up until the December 4th agreement Mr. Denktash lacked the political will for a solution, having repeatedly frustrated numerous efforts and initiatives of the international community to reach a settlement, most recently by unjustifiably abandoning the UN sponsored proximity talks in November 2000. It should also be noted that President Clerides had always expressed his preference for direct talks, a call rejected by the Turkish Cypriot leader.

The renewal of talks between President Clerides and Mr. Denktash gives new hope to the efforts of the international community to end the 27 year old division of the island. The talks take place under the auspices of the UN and within the framework of the Good-Offices Mission of the UN Secretary General, conducted pursuant to UN Security Council resolution 1250/1999. His Special Adviser on Cyprus Alvaro de Soto is present at the talks.

Key Issues for Discussion

The four core issues being discussed during the talks are: Security,Distribution of Powers, Property/Refugees and Territory.The framework for a solution has been defined by repeated resolutions of the UN Security Council, most recently resolution 1251/99 which specifies that "a Cyprus settlement must be based on a State of Cyprus with a single sovereignty and international personality and a single citizenship with its independence and territorial integrity safeguarded and comprising two politically equal communities as described in the relevant Security Council resolutions in a bi-communal and bi-zonal federation and that such a settlement must exclude union in whole or in part with any other country or any form of partition or secession".

Historical Background to the Cyprus Problem

Cyprus became a single independent and sovereign state in 1960 after being a colony of the United Kingdom for 80 years. With an uneven ethnic distribution, its population 80 percent Greek Cypriot and 18 percent Turkish Cypriot the Cyprus constitution mandated strict power sharing arrangements. However, the arrangement rapidly proved unworkable, the Turkish side rejected proposals for certain necessary Constitutional amendments and in December 1963 the security situation deteriorated into inter communal violence. Soon afterwards the Turkish Cypriots withdrew from the government.

In 1964 the UN established a peacekeeping force as Turkey threatened to invade the island and intercommunal violence deteriorated. Greek Turkish relations also deteriorated while the unity of NATO and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean were adversely affected. From 1968 to 1974 periodic UN sponsored talks to develop a framework for returning to normal conditions reduced tension and eliminated outbreaks of violence. But the warming trend was shattered in 1974 when on July 15 a coup engineered by the Greek military junta against the President of Cyprus was followed five days later by the illegal Turkish invasion and occupation of the northern part of the island.

Within a month Turkish forces occupied some 37 percent of Cyprus' territory and defied UN cease fire agreements. Nearly 200 000 Greek Cypriots ( one third of the population) were forcibly evicted from their homes becoming refugees in their own country overnight.

In 1983 the occupied part of Cyprus was self proclaimed as "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC)" an act condemned by the UN Security Council as legally invalid. To this day no other country has recognized it except Turkey. The rest of the world continues to recognize the government of the Republic of Cyprus, as the sole legitimate government of the island.

Although the United Nations has led repeated efforts over the years to find a lasting solution, the illegal occupation still persists with all the destructive and tragic consequences of ethnic cleansing and continuing human rights violations.

Since the Turkish invasion of 1974 the UN has adopted numerous resolutions on Cyprus that call inter alia for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from the island the return of the refugees to their homes in safety the restoration of the human rights to all Cypriots and respect for the sovereignty independence territorial integrity and unity of the Republic of Cyprus.

Despite such decisions of the international community no progress has been achieved towards a settlement as a result of the intransigence of the Turkish side which has moved away from the agreed framework of a bi zonal bi communal federation and has insisted on the unacceptable position of two separate sovereign states that has impeded any progress to be achieved so far in the negotiations.

Economy of Cyprus

The Cyprus Economy The economy of the Republic of Cyprus is one of the world's great economic success stories. In terms of per capita income currently estimated at US$13.700 (2000) Cyprus is classified by the World Bank as a high income country and ranks 25th in the world in the UNDP Human development Index.

Cyprus has developed a modern and technologically advanced economy and is widely recognized for its excellent record of solid economic performance and sound fundamentals with low debt to exports ratio and a high reserves to imports ratio. With $4.5 billion (USD) in annual gross foreign exchange earnings Cyprus today is the leading candidate for membership in the EU. Exports and imports of goods and services amount to 92% of GDP compared to 62% in EU on average.

Historically Cyprus has experienced three primary phases of economic growth. In the 1960s it was primarily an exporter of minerals agricultural products and then as exporter of manufacturing products to end of 1970s and as major provider of services (including tourism) and shipping in the 1980s and 1990s.

While the economy of the government controlled area of Cyprus has thrived currently ranking 23rd in the world in per capita income (measured in PPP, the economy of the occupied northern part of the island continues to deteriorate with a per capita income of just over $3 000.

European Union Accession

One of the most promising recent developments relating to Cyprus is that the island is one of the leading candidates for accession to the European Union. Already Cyprus has closed 27 of 29 chapters of the Acquis Communautaire which forms the body legislation rules and regulations of the European Union. Recently in an address to the House of Representatives of Cyprus the President of the European Commission Romano Prodi stated in no uncertain terms that he fully expects Cyprus to join the EU in the next wave of enlargement likely by 2004.

Regarding the problem of Cyprus' division the European Union has already concluded ( Helsinki Summit 1999) that although it would prefer the see the Cyprus problem resolved a Cyprus settlement is not a precondition for the island?s accession. Most recently Turkey threatened to annex the illegally occupied northern part of Cyprus if the Republic of Cyprus accedes to the EU without a solution. Those threats where met with concern in the U.S. and Europe but the EU reiterated its resolve to move forward with the accession of Cyprus to the EU most recently at the Summit in Laeken ( December 14 15 2001) when Cyprus was included in the 10 likely new members of the next enlargement.

EU membership of Cyprus presents an opportunity to shape a new and favorable environment within which to promote the reunification of the last divided nation in Europe and bring political economic and social benefits to all Cypriots. It will act as a catalyst for a resolution of the conflict encourage a deeper Greek Turkish rapprochment and improve the security environment of the volatile Middle East.

By strengthening the cooperation between two key allies Greece and Turkey a settlement would bolster US political security and economic regional interests. Viewing the situation in this light it is clear that Cyprus holds a key to the future of a critical geostrategic corner of the world.

Quick Facts on Cyprus:

GEOGRAPHY AND PEOPLE

Area: 9 251 sq. kilometers (3 572 sq. miles)
Capital: Nicosia (2001 pop. 273 000)
Population : (2001) approx. 775 000 (Including the Turkish Cypriot community).
Ethnic Composition: Greek Cypriots 85.1%; Turkish Cypriots 11.7% (excluding the settlers from Turkey*);Others (foreign citizens residing in Cyprus) 3.2%
Religion(1960 census): Greek Orthodox 78% Muslim 18% Armenian Catholic & Maronite 4%
Languages: Official: Greek and Turkish. English widely spoken.
* Since 1974 over 55 000 Turkish Cypriots have emigrated abroad and over 100 000 settlers have been illegally transferred from Turkey to Cyprus

ECONOMY (1999 figures)

Profile: Free market services based economy with light manufacturing.
GDP: $9 184.0 (billion)
Real GDP Growth: 5.0%
Per Capita Income: $13 700
Unemployed: 3.3%
Trade: Exports $1 059.7 (billion)
Imports $3 446.0 (billion) of which US imports are appr. 400 million.
Major Markets: EU Middle East. US remains the largest single country trading partner.
Investment Climate: Financial services modern telecommunications educated labor force,good airline connections sound legal system.
GOVERNMENT

Type: Presidential Republic
Independence: August 16 1960
Branches: Executive: President elected to 5 year term;
Legislative: unicameral,House of Representatives members elected to 5 year term.
Judicial:Supreme Court; Six district courts.
Key Government Officials:
President: Glafcos Clerides
Minister of Foreign Affairs: Ioannis Kasoulides
Government Spokesman: Mihalis Papapetrou

Turkish Cypriot Community:
Leader of the Turkish Cypriot Community: Rauf Denktash

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