On 20 July 1974, using the coup of 15 July 1974 perpetrated against the elected Government of Cyprus as a pretext, Turkey staged a full scale invasion against the Republic of Cyprus, in violation of the UN Charter and all principles of international codes of conduct, purportedly to restore constitutional order. As a result of the Turkish invasion, 36.2% of the sovereign territory of the Republic of Cyprus remains under Turkish occupation, about 200.000 Greek Cypriots were forcibly expelled from their properties, while some 1.200 are still missing (May 2014). Out of the 20.000 Greek Cypriots who were enclaved in the occupied areas after the Turkish invasion, only 445 Greek Cypriots remain today, including members of the Maronite religious group (May 2014). From the summer of 1974 until today, the “Attila Line” (“Operation Attila” was the code name of the Turkish military invasion in Cyprus) artificially divides the island and its people.
On 1 November 1974, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted Resolution 3212, the first of a series of Resolutions, with which it calls upon all the states to respect the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and non-alignment of the Republic of Cyprus, as well as the speedy withdrawal from the island of all foreign troops.
The UN General Assembly, the Security Council and the Committee of Human Rights, as well as the Non-Aligned Movement, the Commonwealth, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe and other international organizations repeatedly demanded, in their resolutions, respect for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the Republic of Cyprus, the immediate return of the refugees to their homes in conditions of security, the tracing of the missing persons and the full restoration of all human rights of the Cyprus people.
In February 1977, the first High Level Agreement was signed between the then President of the Republic Archbishop Makarios III and the then Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktaş. The Agreement was reached in the presence of the then UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim and provided for the establishment of a bicommunal federation.
In May 1979, the second High Level Agreement was signed, which provided, inter alia, that priority should be given to the issue of the return of Ammochostos to its legal inhabitants, regardless of the conclusion of the bicommunal talks for a comprehensive settlement of the problem.
On 15 November 1983, the then Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktaş unilaterally declared the northern part of the Republic of Cyprus that is under Turkish military occupation, an independent “state”. The UN Security Council, in its Resolutions 541 (1983) and 550 (1984), denounced the declaration of the pseudostate, declared it legally invalid and demanded its recall. It called upon all states not to recognize any other state in Cyprus than the Republic of Cyprus and not to facilitate or in any way assist the secessionist entity. No country other than Turkey has recognized the pseudostate.
In an effort to increase the prospects for a settlement of the Cyprus problem and ensure security for all Cypriots, on 17 December 1993 the Cyprus Government submitted to the UN Secretary General an official proposal for the full demilitarization of Cyprus. Specifically, the proposal provided for the disbanding of the National Guard and of the Turkish Cypriot military forces, the handing over of all weapons and military equipment to the UN Peace Keeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) and the simultaneous withdrawal from Cyprus of the Turkish occupying forces. According to the proposal, UNIFICYP would have had the responsibility for the supervision and control of the implementation of the measures. Turkey refused to examine the proposal and continues to maintain its military forces in Cyprus.
In December 1999, the United Nations launched yet another effort for finding a solution to the Cyprus problem through proximity talks on the basis of the UN Resolutions. However, there was no progress as the Turkish Cypriot leader kept reverting to his demand for recognition of the illegal regime in the occupied part of Cyprus as a separate, sovereign “state”.
After a pause of over a year, direct talks were launched between the then President of the Republic of Cyprus and leader of the Greek Cypriot Community Glafkos Clerides and the then Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktaş, but again no progress was achieved. In a renewed effort, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan submitted in November 2002 a detailed plan for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem. Revised forms of the plan were re-submitted in December 2002 and in February 2003.
In March 2003, the UN Secretary General invited Tassos Papadopoulos, who had succeeded Glafkos Clerides in the Presidency of Cyprus, and the Turkish Cypriot leader for talks in The Hague. The talks collapsed once again due to the intransigence of Rauf Denktaş, and the Turkish Cypriot side and Turkey faced the criticism of the international community and the disappointment of the Turkish Cypriots for their negative stance. Attempting to remedy the international pressure, on 23 April 2003, the Turkish side announced the partial lifting of the illegal restrictions imposed by the Turkish army since 1974, on the crossing to and from the occupied areas. The number of citizens that crossed to and from the occupied areas without a problem demolished the myth that the two communities cannot live together.
On 13 February 2004, the two sides agreed on the process of the negotiations that were to take place in Nicosia and in Bürgenstock (Switzerland) on the basis of the UNSG’s plan, aiming at an agreement regarding changes on the Plan. The result would be subjected to voting in the two communities in separate, simultaneous referenda.
In Bürgenstock, the Turkish side submitted demands which were contrary to the fundamental principles of the Plan, as well as to the previously agreed trade-offs.
On 31 March 2004, the Secretary General submitted to the two sides the final version of the Plan (Annan Plan V) that was put before the two communities on 24 April 2004 for a vote in separate, simultaneous referenda. A clear majority of 75.8% of Greek Cypriots rejected the Annan Plan, because they felt that it was not balanced. The Turkish Cypriot side approved the Plan by a majority of 64.9%. The Plan did not provide for guarantees regarding security, functionality and viability of the solution. By their vote, Greek Cypriots rejected a plan that provided that the two communities would always be socially, politically and financially divided. They stressed their determination for liberation and independence, through the genuine reunification of the people, the territory, the institutions and the economy of the country.
The initiatives of the Greek Cypriot side to reach a mutually acceptable solution to the Cyprus problem through negotiations, continued after the failure of the Annan Plan, and resulted in the signing on 8 July of an Agreement between the two communities on a Set of Principles for the solution of the Cyprus problem. Unfortunately, the implementation of the Agreement was undermined by the Turkish side and the process was led to a new deadlock.
On 3 September 2008, a new round of talks resumed between the then President of the Republic Mr Demetris Christofias and the then Turkish Cypriot leader Mr Mehmet Ali Talat. The negotiation process aimed at finding a solution “from the Cypriots by the Cypriots”, on the basis of an agreement between the two leaders which would be put before the people for approval. The agreement should ensure the fundamental and legal rights of the Cyprus people, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. In joint statements, the two leaders reaffirmed their commitment for a bizonal, bicommunal federation and agreed that the solution would be based on a single sovereignty, a single citizenship and a single international personality of federal Cyprus.
UN Secretary General Mr Ban Ki-moon, in an effort to stress the importance given by the UN to peace negotiations, paid a visit to Cyprus in early 2010, expressing his personal support to the negotiations. The Secretary General read a joint statement by the two leaders, in which it was reaffirmed that they had worked on the basis of the comprehensive approach that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”.
On 26 May 2010, the then President of the Republic Demetris Christofias held his first meeting with Derviş Eroğlu, the newly-elected leader of the Turkish Cypriot community, who succeeded Mehmet Ali Talat on 18 April 2010.
Until 1 July 2012, when Cyprus assumed the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the two leaders met several times, unfortunately with no results due to Turkey’s intransigent stance. The Turkish side did not recognize the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus and refused to hold any negotiations during the Cyprus Presidency, despite calls from the Greek Cypriot side.
In September 2013, following the initiatives and efforts of the President of the Republic Mr Nicos Anastasiades (he succeeded Demetris Christofias to the Presidency of the Republic on 28 February 2013), the two sides appointed Negotiators for the Cyprus problem, who worked for the preparation of the resumption of a new round of negotiations.
The efforts led to the first official meeting between the President of the Republic and the Turkish Cypriot leader on 11 February 2014, under the auspices of the United Nations. During the meeting, a Joint Declaration was adopted by the two leaders, which sets the framework of the new negotiation process, reaffirms the fundamental principles of the solution and clarifies the methodology to be followed.
Specifically, the Joint Declaration reiterates that the settlement to be reached will be based on the establishment of a bicommunal, bizonal federation with political equality, as set out in the relevant Security Council Resolutions and the High Level Agreements, and that united Cyprus, as a member of the United Nations and of the European Union, shall have a single international legal personality, a single sovereignty and a single citizenship. It is also stressed that the settlement of the problem should first and foremost ensure the respect of the democratic principles and of the human rights of all citizens of the Federation, as well as the smooth and effective participation of Cyprus to the European Union.
On 27 February 2014, a meeting was held between the Greek Cypriot Negotiator Ambassador Mr Andreas Mavroyiannis and the Turkish Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ambassador Mr Feridun Sinirlioğlu opening for the first time a path for direct communication with Turkey. At the same time, the Turkish Cypriot Negotiator Mr Kurdet Ozersay met on the same day with the Secretary General of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ambassador Mr Anastassis Mitsialis.
The adoption of the Joint Declaration and the launching of a new process of substantive negotiations aiming at the solution of the Cyprus problem renewed the international interest, creating a new positive impetus for the solution of the problem.
In the framework of its efforts to maintain and enhance this new impetus, the Cyprus Government attaches great importance to the implementation of confidence building measures (CBMs). In this context, President Anastasiades submitted a comprehensive package of confidence building measures, the most important of which concerns the return of the forced-off area of Ammochostos to its lawful inhabitants. An agreement on this package is expected to be a game-changer in the efforts for a solution, with multiple benefits for all parties involved. With the package of confidence building measures it submitted, the Greek Cypriot side aims at creating conditions of mutual trust between the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots, giving the negotiation process added impetus and restoring the hope and trust of the Cyprus people in the prospect for a solution. The proposal on Ammochostos was warmly welcomed by the international community and the European Union. Unfortunately, Turkey is yet to respond clearly to the proposal.