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The United Nations Mediation in Cyprus: 1975-1990

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The United Nations Mediation in Cyprus: 1975-1990

The UN mediation in Cyprus during this period is characterised by the complete absence of a clear idea of what the post-1974 political settlement should be. In other words, the UN did not manage to address questions like: should the Zurich-London Agreements be upheld? Did those agreements provide a viable solution to the Cyprus problem at the first place? If not, how could a new political settlement be justified and presented to the affected parties (Turkey and Turkish-Cypriots)? What guarantees could be given to the affected parties for future developments? How committed could the international community be in long-term in providing the necessary guarantees? If such commitments were not upheld by the guarantor powers and the rest of the international community during the events of 1974, why one could expect things to be different in the future?

Instead, the UN tried to bring the two communities of Cyprus together and let them find a solution themselves. But there were two problems that made the reaching of a settlement difficult. First, each of the two communities had different 'ideal settlements' in mind. While the Turkish-Cypriot side advocated a return to the Zurich-London principles, the Greek-Cypriot side maintained that a new arrangement should be found and that it should be based on the majority-minority divide. Second, if in the presence of a growing domestic upheaval the inter-communal had failed to produce any concrete results, the Turkish military intervention had, in fact, worsened the situation. Mistrust and hostility had grown to the point that it was impossible for the two sides to agree. Instead, encouraged by the UN stance, they sought to use different international fora to advance their cause and 'ideal settlement'.

One of the developments that could assist the UN in its mediation efforts was that the idea of unification of Cyprus with Greece was abandoned by the Greek-Cypriot side. Two were the reasons for that. First, a rivalry arose between Athens and Nicosia due to the involvement of Greece in the coup d' etat of July 1974 which led to the Turkish military intervention and the de facto division of the island. And second, abandoning of the unification idea was also seen as the only way for the Greek-Cypriot side to convince Turkey to withdraw its troops from the island and keep it outside the Cypriot internal affairs after a new settlement was reached. Although there are still Greek-Cypriots who advocate the idea of 'enosis', their number is too small to move things to that direction. Nevertheless, they provide a good pretext for the Turkish and Turkish-Cypriot policies.

The first effort of the UN to address the Cyprus problem through mediation, following the Turkish military intervention of 1974 and the failure of the subsequent negotiations in Geneva the same year, was undertaken in 1975. Then the UN Secretary General was entrusted with a good-will mission to bring the Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot leaders together under agreed procedures and to facilitate negotiations on equal footing. The same year a population exchange agreement was concluded and implemented under UN auspices.

In 1977 and 1979, two high level agreements were reached between the two sides for seeking a federal solution. The implementation of the Makarios-Denktash (1977) and Kyprianou-Denktash (1979) Agreements, however, was subject to the political calculations of both parties and especially the Greek-Cypriot one.

Specifically, those agreements were more to the favour of the Turkish-Cypriot side than to the Greek-Cypriot. The reason for which the Greek-Cypriot leadership signed those agreements was that under the then existing conditions appeared to be no alternative. However, the Greek-Cypriot side did not attempt to implement the agreements immediately but instead it sought to gain time with the hope that a more favourable settlement could be reached in the future.

From that moment on, a period of 'missed opportunities' for the resolution of the Cyprus problem began and which still goes on. This period is characterised by the unsuccessful efforts of the Greek-Cypriots to obtain a settlement that favours their 'ideal settlement' and the hardening of the Turkish-Cypriot position. The Greek-Cypriot side, however, denies the fact that there have been 'missed opportunities' and argues that those opportunities could not serve the interests of the Cypriot people. Nevertheless, the recent acceptance by the Greek-Cypriots of the creation of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation showed that they had come to accept a settlement that is closer to the 'ideal settlement' of the Turkish-Cypriots rather than theirs. At the same time, this reality explains why the Greek-Cypriot side sought to transfer the Cyprus issue from the UN to the EU.

The Turkish-Cypriot side, on the other hand, wants to achieve a political settlement that could put the two communities on equal footing. To this end, it has supported the establishment of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation based on the political equality of the two sides. But when the Greek-Cypriot leadership attempted to use different international fora to advance its cause and interests, in conjunction with the worsening of the relations between Athens and Ankara, the position of the Turkish-Cypriot side hardened. The significant difference between the 'ideal settlements' of the two sides led to the collapse of the negotiation process.

Particularly, when the Greek-Cypriot leadership presented its cause before the UN General Assembly in 1983, the Turkish-Cypriot side reacted arguing that this action was not fair since they could not be present and therefore have a fair hearing. As a result and in conjunction with the worsening of the Greek-Turkish relations Rauf Denktash, the leader of the Turkish-Cypriots, proclaimed the same year the establishment of the 'Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus'.

In response, the UN with the Security Council Resolutions 541/1983 and 550/1984 condemned the unilateral declaration, declared it illegal and invalid and called for its immediate withdrawal. They also called upon states not to recognise the purported state and not in any way assist the secessionist entity. Finally, the UN General Assembly Resolution 37/253/1983 demanded the withdrawal of the Turkish army from northern Cyprus. Those resolutions were in favour of the Greek-Cypriot side, while non-recognition of the 'Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus' allowed the Greek-Cypriot Government to continue speaking on behalf of the whole population of Cyprus. This was unacceptable for the Turkish-Cypriots and relations between the two communities worsened as a consequence.

A series of UN Secretary

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