Two renowned figures are suggesting that Greek Cyprus' six-month term in the presidency of the EU is an opportunity to correct nearly 40 years of history -- the reunification of Cyprus for the first time since the Turkish invasion of 1974.
The longshot proposal by Praxoula Antoniadou Kyriacou, former Cypriot energy minister and current leader of the United Democrats party, and Sir Graham Watson of the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party, is made in an essay being circulated on the internet and in several newspapers.
The pair said that "the goal of a united Cyprus presiding over the EU has been missed; and the lack of a political resolution for 40 years is a testament to a failure of political will and imagination." They call for an agreement to reunify Cyprus by the end of the Cyprus EU presidency.
The proposal, if taken seriously by both parties, has to overcome significant hurdles. Turkey, which aspires to be a member of the EU, has said it will not participate in EU events chaired by a representative of Greek Cyprus, whose term began this month and extends through the end of the year.
"It is quite frankly naïve to expect [Greek Cyprus President Demetris] Christofias, who has been dragging his feet since 2008, to actually take steps within the next six months to reach a solution," Ahmet Sozen, a professor of international relations at Eastern Mediterranean University and director of the Cyprus Policy Centre, told SETimes.
Kyriacou and Watson suggest that only through unification can Cyprus flourish. "Neither Greek nor Turkish Cypriots can fulfill their economic potential in a divided, economically curtailed and militarised island with an uncertain future," they said in the article.
They suggest that to break the stalemate, that the city of Varoshia be returned to its original inhabitants, and called for the opening of the port in Famagusta and the airport in Ercan.
They also suggest that Turkey open a major airport and port to Cypriot vessels and additional chapters of negotiation are opened for Turkey's EU accession.
In an interview with SETimes, Kyriacou said there would be opportunities for trade between the whole of Cyprus and Turkey once political relations normalise, and added that this process would bring additional investment in infrastructure and increased flows of foreign direct investment associated with the removal of political risk.
The normalisation of political relations will also mean that Turkish ports, which are currently closed to vessels flying the Cyprus flag, will be opened; while Turkish Cypriots being cut off from the EU will acquire direct means to trade and travel there.
The discovery of significant natural gas deposits off the southern coast of Cyprus in late 2011 could be a great benefit, the authors said.
"However, it will require wise political management on the part of all parties involved. In this sense, it is an opportunity of make or break," they emphasised, adding that reunification will allow all the Cypriots to share the benefits coming from the exploitation of the island's natural wealth.
Watson, who is also on the European Parliament's High Level Contact Group for relations with the Turkish Cypriot Community, said the division of Cyprus in many ways makes a mockery of the European project as it shows that the EU cannot even solve a conflict within its own borders.
Watson told SETimes that the EU presidency gives Christofias an opportunity to bring the full influence of the EU to bear in finding a solution. "For instance, working together with Turkey on Syria might provide us with new opportunities for co-operation," he said.
The letter can be read by following this link.
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Distributed via Southeast European Times