With the Cyprus reunification negotiations under way since 2008 at an impasse, dramatic steps are needed. As the stalemate continues, the costs for Greek and Turkish Cypriots, Turkey and the European Union (EU) are growing. Neither Greek Cypriots nor Turkish Cypriots can fulfil their potential on an island whose future is divided, uncertain, militarised and facing new economic difficulties. Time is making it ever harder to reunify the island, divided politically since Greek Cypriots seized control of the Republic of Cyprus in 1963 and militarily since a Turkish invasion in 1974 created a Turkish Cypriot zone on its northern third. After nearly four decades, the sides remain far apart even on the meaning of the talks’ agreed goal, a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation. While there has long been peace, and relative freedom to interact since 2003, trade and visits between the two communities across the Green Line are decreasing.
Lack of a settlement damages everyone’s interests and keeps frustrations high. More than 200,000 Cypriots are still internally displaced persons (IDPs), and Turkish troops remain in overwhelming force. Few outside the military command in Ankara know if there are 21,000 soldiers, as Turkey says, or 43,000, as Greek Cypriots claim – a dispute that is one indication among many of the distrust and lack of information. Crisis Group has detailed in four reports since 2006 how the interests of the 1.1 million Cypriots and outside parties would be best met with a comprehensive political settlement. This remains the ideal, but as it is unrealistic in the coming months, ICG proposes interim unilateral steps.