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Now or Never in Cyprus

ANKARA – Cyprus is back on the international agenda, with leaders of the island’s rival Greek and Turkish communities engaged in intense negotiations to resolve the divided country’s status. But, although new talks are underway, the international community is, not surprisingly, tired of dealing with the issue. After all, the Cyprus conflict has dragged on since 1974, wearing out United Nations Secretary-Generals and special representatives of all sorts, as well as bringing down governments in both Greece and Cyprus.

In 2004, the European Union, the United States, and a good part of the international community invested considerable energy in trying to resolve the conflict once and for all. Then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and his team drafted a plan, which Turkey’s government took very significant political risks in supporting. The government convinced the Turkish Cypriots to make a leap of faith and vote in favor of the Annan plan in order to reunite the island.

Regrettably, the Greek Cypriot leadership at that time actively campaigned against the UN plan. Consequently, whereas 65% of Turkish Cypriots voted in favor of the plan when it was put to a vote on the island, 76% of Greek Cypriots rejected it. Worse yet, Greek Cyprus joined the EU literally days after it spurned the will of the international community, while the EU reneged on its promises to end the Turkish community’s isolation if it supported Annan’s plan.

Today, many people might think that all of this is water under the bridge. But the fate of the Annan plan remains very much a part of Turkish thinking on the Cyprus issue.