With his country’s crushing economic crisis still ongoing, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, after meeting with U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden in Washington, said he now wants to pursue solving the long-vexing problem of reuniting the island split since a Turkish invasion and occupation in 1974.
The White House said Biden and Anastasiades discussed how a new round of peace talks over the ethnically divided country could go. Negotiations broke off 18 months ago when Cyprus’ former president, Communist party leader Demetris Christofias, could not get his Turkish counterpart to agree on anything.
Biden said the United States is keen on seeing the talks begin again although the laborious negotiations have gone nowhere for years. Biden told Anastasiades the United States remains committed to a reunified Cyprus as a bizonal and bicommunal federation.
Biden also promoted the possibility to expand cooperation among Mediterranean countries and thanked Cyprus for its partnership on regional stability.
Cyprus was split in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Turkish Cypriots declared an independent northern state in 1983, recognized only by Turkey.
Speaking during a live televised press conference in Washington, the Cypriot leader welcomed Turkey’s positive response to his proposal for the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot negotiators to visit Ankara and Athens for a new peace push, involving Turkey and Greece.
That could be a sticking point, however, as Turkey, which wants to join the European Union of which Cyprus is already a member, won’t recognize Cyprus and no other country except Turkey recognizes the unlawfully-held northern part of the island under Turkish control.
Anastasiades, sounding much like every other former Cypriot leader who has failed to solve the problem, spoke in platitudes about how he believes it could be answered through dialogue and good will, although both sides have traded intransigent shots for years.
He said he’s working with Greece for assistance but said there was no chance that that the negotiations would become a “two-party, three-party, four-party or multi-party conference,” the Cyprus Mail reported.
“The problem of Cyprus was never bicommunal in nature. It is not about the differences between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. What divided the country was the invasion and continued occupation, therefore our interlocutors should not only be our Turkish Cypriot compatriots,” he said.
“The possibility of the Greek Cypriot negotiator meeting with representatives of Ankara gives us for the first time since the invasion the ability to negotiate with those who should be held accountable for the positions submitted at the negotiating table, those who bear responsibility for a solution of the Cyprus problem.”
He added: “Moreover, it is the longstanding position of all that the Cyprus problem should be returned to its correct basis, as a problem of invasion and occupation.”The latest agreement on the two negotiators visiting separately the guarantor powers does not undermine the Cyprus Republic, but on the contrary enhances it, he argued.
“In my opinion, Turkey as an occupying power holds the key to a solution. It cannot stay away from the dialogue, merely listening to others urging it to help resolve the problem.”
That came as Europe’s top human rights body urged is urging Turkey to immediately pay 200,000 euros ($270,000) in damages and costs to relatives of Greek Cypriots who disappeared during its invasion of Cyprus.
The executive branch of the 47-country Council of Europe said it “deeply deplores” the fact that Turkey still hasn’t complied with a 2009 European Court of Human Rights decision ordering it to pay a total 200,000 euros ($270,000) to relatives of nine missing persons.
The court ruled that Turkey failed to carry out an investigation into the fate of the missing and to inform relatives. The case was filed in 1990.
Cyprus says 1,619 Cypriot disappeared during the invasion which was mounted after a coup by supporters of union with Greece, with the support of America and Great Britain, leaving the country split.
Most of the missing were soldiers or reservists, captured during the battles by the Turkish invasion force. Among them, however, were many civilians, women and children, arrested by the Turkish invasion troops and Turkish-Cypriot paramilitary groups, within the area controlled by the Turkish army after the cease of the battles and far away from the military front, according to Cypriots working for their return.
“Although motion pictures and photographs showing these people either being arrested or being transferred to and imprisoned in Turkey do exist, none of them has ever returned,” the Missing Cypriots Page stated. “There is hope that some of these people are still alive,” it added.
According to the Cypriot Embassy in Washington, DC, Turkey has done little to try to resolve the whereabouts of the missing in the invasion that had the implicit support of the United States and England.
It said that during and after the Turkish invasion, thousands of Cypriots were arrested and detained in concentration camps in Cyprus by the Turkish army and by Turkish-Cypriot paramilitary organizations acting under the control of the Turkish army.
More than 2000 prisoners of war were illegally taken to Turkey and detained in Turkish prisons. Some of them were not released and are still missing.
“Hundreds of other Greek Cypriots, both soldiers and civilians (including old people, women and children) disappeared in the areas under Turkish occupation and are still missing. There are hundreds of testimonies from eyewitnesses documenting the arrest of missing persons by the Turkish army or by Turkish Cypriots acting under its control,” the Embassy added.