Divided hopes: Cyrups continues to be a tale of two states

Written by Susan Mannella on .

The election last weekend of nationalist Dervis Eroglu as president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus probably represents a setback for settlement of the Cyprus problem.

Mr. Eroglu of the National Unity Party received 50 percent of the vote, defeating President Mehmet Ali Talat, with 43 percent.

Since its division in 1974, Cyprus, an island of 862,000, has been a problem for its distinct parts' sponsors, Greece and Turkey; for NATO, of which Greece, Turkey and the United States are members; and for the European Union, in which Greece and Greek Cyprus are members and Turkey seeks membership.

Greek Cyprus has 78 percent of the population and 64 percent of the land. Turkish Cyprus has 18 percent of the people and 36 percent of the area.

In 2004 the EU could have forced a solution to the issue, but it lost its nerve. Greek Cyprus wanted to join the EU, supported by Greece, a longtime EU member. The EU could have said "no membership" until the island is reunified, thus forcing negotiations. But Greece told the EU that it would block the applications of countries backed by other EU members unless Greek Cyprus was let in, without reunification. The EU caved in to Greek blackmail and Greek Cyprus was admitted.

Mr. Talat, who lost the election, had been involved in negotiations under United Nations sponsorship with Greek Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias since 2008. Mr. Talat may have lost because of the EU's failure to honor a pledge made at the time of Greek Cypriot entrance to hold direct trade talks with Turkish Cyprus.

The matter now seems at an impasse. Greece and Greek Cyprus are blocking Turkey's entrance to the EU on the basis of this problem. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the talks with Greek Cypriot leaders will resume. It will be interesting to see if Mr. Talat agrees. The U.S. interest in the matter is in seeing that differences between Greece and Turkey on it do not disrupt the smooth operation of NATO.


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