7 December 2006
BBC Europe editor Mark Mardell meets the isolated Turkish Cypriot community and asks what it feels like in the spotlight, as relations between the European Union and would-be member Turkey go badly wrong.
Mahmut Nihat: Running an airport cut off from the world is frustrating
Mahmut Nihat has a mournful disposition and a bone dry humour. The second quality is desirable and the first understandable in the man who is director of one of the least accessible airports in the world.
Although it's December, the sun is blazing in a blue sky - potential beach weather I tell my jealous family in rain-soaked Brussels. As we meet on the tarmac of Ercan airport in the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Mr Nihat complains of the heat. He can't enjoy the summer much in Cyprus. He's in the wrong country, I say. He replies: "The sun burns you, we're isolated. Yes, wrong country."
INVADING AND INTERVENING
Turkey is facing a crisis in its talks about joining the European Union precisely because of its stubborn insistence on ending this isolation. The world's governments regard the north of Cyprus as an illicit state, an indirect consequence of Turkey's invasion of the island in 1974 - or the "peace operation" or "intervention" as they call it this side of the border.
By contrast, the southern, Greek Cypriot part of the island is recognised as the legitimate government and is a proud new member of the European Union. I am not here to examine that old wound of division and ethnic tension but to find out what they make in the north of the current row that is dominating the European Union, and which, like it or not, they are at the centre of. After all, Turkey, a country of some 70m, is digging its heels in, risking the increasing wrath of the EU countries for the sake of the 250,000 people who live here.
The Turkish Cypriot community is isolated by a largely undeclared embargo. Flights from Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir regularly come and go from Ercan airport but you will find no direct connections to London, Paris or Berlin. You can't get here without going to Turkey first. Mr Nihat talks to us about his immense frustration at running an airport that is cut off from the world.
He says he would love to be able to talk to all the other directors of international airports, to share in their knowledge. If the airport was opened up, he reckons traffic would double overnight, to about 3m passengers per year, with obvious knock-on effects for tourism.
Not much traffic to control from this tower
Mr Nihat shows us the control tower. In the middle of the day it lies idle - no chatter about Delta One Charlie in the air. The flight we arrived on from Istanbul has re-loaded and headed off to Ankara. There isn't another flight for three hours. "I worked up there for 10 years. There are 83 steps," he says. "Now we have a lift."
The trip to the top may have got easier but it's not much busier for the air traffic controllers who now work under him. As we continue our conversation, in the middle of the empty tarmac, he stops to swat away a lone fly that returns to plague him. With the hint of a shadow of a smile he says, "I am not isolated from the fly. The fly finds me."
For the last few months, the EU had been hoping that the Finns had a cunning plan to stop the row with Turkey turning into a crisis. The Finnish plan, earnestly negotiated in Brussels and Helsinki, discussed in Athens and Ankara, was based on opening the port of Famagusta in the north of the island, an undeclared tit-for-tat if Turkey shifted its position.
I've talked a lot with EU diplomats about the details of the plan in the last few weeks but it only takes me about 10 minutes on this side of the island to realise it was a non-starter. In fact, I get the distinct impression that the Turkish Cypriots like Famagusta exactly as it is. I'm not sure I do. This is not a political view but mere personal cowardice, as a large, if empty, container swings over my head, narrowly but neatly missing a lorry travelling in the opposite direction.
The port may not win health and safety awards
When I ask the director of the port and its shipping agents, Huseyin Kayalp, about "opening up" the port, he gestures to the Romanian ship under a Cambodian flag unloading timber. The first mate, who's from India, tells us it's a good steady trip from the Black Sea and on to Lebanon. Standing on the dock, he smiles happily and nods as his sailors on deck talk animatedly to him. What are they saying? "I've no idea, I don't speak a word of Arabic," he says.
Planks of wood break loose from the bundle as roly-poly dockers scatter slowly before returning to phlegmatically steady the load. But while Famagusta may not win any health and safety awards, it is manifestly open, and full of ships, carrying animal feed, cars and steel. When I ask Mr Kayalp what he made of the Finnish plan he says: "It's nothing. They would have opened the port for us but the port is open and active and has been since 1974. We are buying from all over the world." Perhaps this is bravado but the semi-official view seems to be that "opening up" would be equivalent to giving the port back to the Greek Cypriots and at the added price of the military having to move out of the area.
The president of the Turkish Cypriot chamber of commerce, Erdil Nami, joins us on the dockside. He confirms that the real prize would be the airport. He says: "The plan was unbalanced from the beginning and balance would mean including the airport in the package. We're not a country that produces much. We rely on services, like tourism and educating university students, and for this we need a normally functioning airport."
"Cyprus Excuse" is the headline of the local paper in the north, quoting Turkish politicians - echoing the belief of many locals - that if France and Germany were serious about wanting Turkey in the EU, the objections of Cyprus would be swatted aside. Many think these big countries are using Cyprus to do their dirty work for them. But it's not the whole story.
One EU diplomat tells me that Turkey cannot bargain as though it is in an oriental bazaar, expecting a discount from its promises. All EU countries agree it's absurd for Turkey to block traffic from a member state of the organisation it wants to join. But Turkey sees itself as the protector of people who believe they should have their own space, even if no-one else agrees with them.
Mr Nami later tells me that as a Turkish Cypriot student studying in Ankara in 1964 he got a message from his brother not to return to the island but to make a new life in Turkey, because of the worsening situation on the island. Instead he and 40 other students were secretly trained by the military and returned to fight. His two brothers were killed in later battles.
Whatever the rights or wrongs, there is no doubt that the people on this side of the island feel under immense pressure, with barely a card left to play. Only Turkey stands between them and utter isolation. There is anger that the South rejected the UN plan to reunite the island, while they voted for it. And there's bitterness that shortly after this Cyprus became a member of the EU, and so part of an organisation that sits in judgement over them.
I ask the President of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Mehmet Ali Talat, what it would mean if Turkey agreed to do what the European Union wants, without getting anything in return. "We would be even more isolated and then Turkey would have then to impose embargoes on us - Turkey isolating Turkish Cypriots. We couldn't digest that. It would be impossible, unthinkable, and it's not going to happen. But Turkey is risking its own cause and for that we are very thankful."
Mehmet Ali Talat: Impossible to imagine a Turkish embargo
With important elections in Turkey next year, and the government unwilling to give quarter to radical nationalists it is hard to see how they can give ground to the EU without something in return. It's equally impossible to see how they will get it. Mahmut Nihat will need his mournful sense of humour for a while yet.
I am aware that in the 60s there were internal conflicts between the two ethnic groups and Greek Cypriots made as many mistakes as the Turkish Cypriots. But that does not mean that it is fair to disregard human rights and take away houses and land that does not belong to you and redistribute it to Turkish settlers from Turkey! The UN proposed a plan that benefited only Turkey, therefore they liked it. It was a plan that would have legalised the results of Turkish invasion and one cannot believe that it was actually proposed by the UN, the protector of human rights.
Many thanks to Mark Mardell and people like him who help publicise the facts about Cyprus. I think we should stop playing the blame game. This is not 1963 or 1974 anymore!
Iley, London, UK
I am British and have lived on both sides of the green zone; and I will comment that the wrong side of Cyprus was allowed to join first. The only reason the favour is on this side is so Britain (including U.S. Forces) and France can have their strategic bases here!
Michael Gray, Limassol, Cyprus
It was a mistake by the EU to admit Cyprus to the union before this problem is resolved. This is not the first example of inconsistencies and double standards when it comes to the EU. I think the very existence of "the Union" is threatened, given problems faced on multiple fronts and the increasing polarization and polemic going on. Turkey has the strength to survive despite hardship. We are proud people that have proven this time and again in the past. And frankly, a lot of Turks including intellectuals are puzzled with the false promise of joining an organization where "the fear of the Polish plumber" is rampant.
Atakan Cetinsoy, San Francisco, USA
How can the EU justify granting membership to one half of the island and not the other? The 30 year-plus isolation of the TRNC is not and cannot ever be justified. An unwritten embargo on a country that has no political, terrorist or social threat to the EU is preventing not only the progression of TRNC but also that of Turkey. The EU needs to decide: does it want Turkey as a member, which with it comes TRNC as a recognised state with free trade? Or does it want to continue to isolate the 250,000 inhabitants of the northern part of the island, not accept Turkey as a member and lose the great benefits Turkey would bring as a member?
Dervis Kadir, London, UK.
The Greek Cypriots want union just as much as the Turkish Cypriots do. People are so quick to judge them for voting No in 2004, yet nobody ever talks about how Greek Cypriot President Papadopoulos urged his citizens to vote no, as did the Church. There is a power struggle between the government, who are afraid of losing their power, and the people. Since the 1970s things have changed. Those wanting enosis with Greece are a minority now that Cyprus has developed and become a successful country in its own right. If education on both sides of the Green Line improves, both communities can easily unify in a peaceful manner.
Kostas, San Francisco
I teach in a Northern Cyprus university. I have many friends in N Cyprus - Turkish Cypriots or Turks living there, all of outstanding quality. History has created a situation which is more absurd than really painful in their day to day life. In my opinion what the EU must do is to keep on helping the North by funding equipment and all sorts of educational and cultural programmes while facilitating the circulation between the two parts. This will help (and is already helping) the people there to bear their absurd situation. Only time will allow two viable states to co-exist peacefully, while the reasons for the split will little by little be forgotten.
jack wigbond, Brussels, Belgium
It's time to bring the Turkish Cypriots in from the cold - they deserve recognition in their own right - with or without the accession of Turkey to the EU. They have suffered enough bungling and interference from the double standards of the EU, so think hard member states and ask yourselves why Cyprus is in this situation in the first place! Remedy the situation now and tell the Republic of Cyprus government to fall into line and work for a solution instead of continuing with their petty, 'hard-done-by' bickering! Surely it's time to move on?
Graham Mulcahy, wirral, uk
The main problem is that Greek Cypriots believe that Cyprus belongs to them and not to both communities. Prior to 1974 the Greek Cypriots treated Turkish Cypriots like second-class citizens, not allowing them to progress economically or politically.
P Izzet, London
My parents are both refugees of the 1974 Turkish invasion. In this article the "Turkish Cypriots" (which are a minority, since Turks were brought by the Turkish government) are portrayed as the isolated victims. The result of the Turkish invasion was the loss of Cypriot people's lives, homes and land. Who are the victims in this situation? Turkey should not even bring up this isolation as a problem that we should solve and negotiate! Turkey should be punished for the pain that it caused to Cypriots!
Maria Toumazou, Nicosia, Cyprus
As long as Greek Cypriots refuse to recognize the Turkish leadership on the North of the island, there will never be any true progress. Turkey is there only to protect the Turkish Cypriots. Without a Turkish military presence, the poor lightly-equipped Turkish Cypriot side would be vulnerable to the types of ethnic cleansing that occurred in the 60s and 70s at the hands of EOKA militants. Turkey gains nothing but headaches by supporting Northern Cyprus. It's only there as a part of a historical/moral obligation. This issue will never be solved until Greek Cypriots accept that there is a Turkish Cypriot community on the island, whom they need to negotiate with.
Mehmet, Jersey City, NJ, USA
The Turkish Cypriots voted for unification under the UN plan but the Greek Cypriots rejected it. So let the world recognise TRNC. After all the Turkish army only came to Cyprus to protect the Turkish Cypriot community from the massacres by the Greek Cypriots in the period up to 1974. I am from Pakistan and if Pakistanis and Indians can learn to live together as separate nations then why not the two Cypriot nations?
Jav Hason, London, UK
My family lived in the North for generations, my grandfather and his before, farmed the land, worked hard to bring up their children and to build their homes. Granted, this was not unique to the Greek Cypriots; my father tells me that they lived in peace with their Turkish Cypriot neighbours, who also did the same. It was only through the interference of outside influences and the sheer bloody-mindedness of minority sectors within the island that violence and destruction was instigated and partition was the end result.
Now as someone who has grown up in the UK, when I come back to Cyprus to visit, I am unable to stand upon 'the land of my fathers'. Oh yes, I can view from a distance the village where my family lived, but I cannot enter as it has become a militarised zone. Unfortunately, there is a sector of British society making matters worse by buying properties built on land that does not belong to those who are selling them. My desire would be to see the 'native' Greek and Turkish Cypriots once again living in harmony. I do not believe that there is an easy answer regarding the redistribution of land and property that would inevitably be an issue through de-partitioning the island. However, I do believe that this would at least be a step in the right direction.
Andreas, Rotherham, U.K.
The North voted for the Annan plan, because it was cut up to their specifications. Their population is 1/4 of the total population of the island (265.000 according to latest stats, including Turkish settlers that Ankara brought after the invasion, more than 100.000 less if they are excluded) and the Annan plan gave them half of a new country. The 750.000 of the South (Cypriot majority of greek origin), would have to be treated worse than the Cypriot minority of turkish origin (150.000) and the settlers from Turkey (100.000). How is this fair, is beyond my understanding.
Peter Feros, London, UK
I'm just asking to all Europe.Is it fair that Greek Cypriots want everything from Turkish government including opening of all ports and all airports without giving nothing? Is it fair that Greek Cypriots live happily with everything they can easily find in the south but they force Turkish Cypriots to live in poverty and under isolations.Didn't the Greek Cypriots started all the conflicts with ethnic cleansing of Turks in 1963? Does Turkey have no right to protect innocent people from ethnic cleansing? Please think once more,please..
Kaan Yigit, Kyrenia,North Cyprus
In giving asymmetric incentives to Greek and Turkish Cypriots - i.e. the south gains entry anyway unless both sides accepted the Annan Plan - the EU helped further cement division at a time when the Turkish Cypriots had done a great deal of heavy lifting for a compromise solution. The EU allowed the south to have its cake and eat it too... It's difficult to see how this approach contributes to the wellbeing of Cypriots on either side of the Green Line, the Union's relationship with Turkey, or for progressive democratic forces in Turkey who have used the membership bid as a lever to press for long overdue human rights protections and other democratizing reforms.
Kurt Bassuener, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Hercegovina
Are you aware that the present status quo is the result of Turkish army invasion, occupation of almost half the territory of an independent state, forceful evacuation of all (ethnic Greek) citizens of this state from their homes and stealing of their properties?? And all this under the pretext of protecting the interests of a 14% Turkish minority!
Would people in the UK consider as acceptable the Irish army invading and occupying 40% of Northern Ireland, in order to protect the Catholic minority living there?
K D Verrichio, Athens, Greece
No Mr Verrichio the present status quo is NOT the result of the Turkish army invading the Island. The situation was started by the Greek Cypriots because they wanted ENOSIS (rule from Athens) and were prepared to do this by fair means or foul, eg. Ethnic cleansing of the Turkish Cypriots. If the countries in the EU had not turned a blind eye to this ethnic cleansing in the 60¿s and 70¿s there would not have been this division, a decision which I may say was supported by the Greek Cypriots in rejecting the recent Annan Plan.
graham, girne cyprus
This conflict did not begin with the Turkish invasion. Due to the British protectorate on the Island, it did not have the same evolution as the rest of Greece and Turkey (forced exchange of population). There has always been a Turkish population on the island and they have just as much right to be there as the greek cypriots. Unrest between the communities led to the Turkish invasion in 1974. This is why a comprehensive plan must be carried out in order to solve the old conflict. In my opinion, it is unfair to force one side to submission as this would not solve the root problems. It was perhaps a mistake to welcome Cyprus into the EU before this conflict was resolved. I think that there is a lack of understanding of the Turkish and Turkish Cypriot point of view on the matter in the EU.
Thomas Kryger, Brussels, Belgium
As far as I know it was the greek cypriots that made a coup d'etat in 1974 with the aim of unifying the island to Greece. Turkey rightly felt that this would be trampling over the rights of the turkish populations of the island and therefore intervened militarily. As such it is appalling that the EU admitted Cypres into the EU under the pretext that only the greek cypriotic government is legitimate. As long as the problem is unresolved such a move is very unhelpful as it conveys the message that the reward for a coup d'etat is membership of the EU.
Robert Oeffner, Cambridge, UK
I propose that the Turkish republic of Northern Cyprus be recognized at the UN, that Turkey and the TRNC ultimately join the EU, and that all the players can work together in the arena of multi-level Union governance and all the dynamics tht this involves. Should this prove too difficult for peoples that have been accustomed to perfectionist Kemalist ideology since the '20s and the '50s, then so be it.
Eugene Daniel, London
Really, what are we discussing ? They invaded, took our land from us, and now they expect to bargain with us for what is rightfully ours ? And have the audacity to complain. I don't have the privelige that most people have, my grandparents graves have been turned into a car park and I can't even go to lay some flowers as I don't know where they are. Isn't the European Union all about human rights, What happened to mine ?
MARIO DEMETRIOU, London UK
What really strikes me as strange is the fact that Turkish and Greek Cypriots live along side each in London without any problems what so ever. Yet we cannot live together in Cyprus. If people were to stop and put their selfish reasons aside for one second they might realize that peace and unity is the only way to move forward as a unit. I am genuinely disgusted by some of the comments made.
Ersin Ersoy, London, UK
As a Turkish I want a resolution in the Cyprus issue, and I know that Turkish Cypriots want this,too. We all want to move on. But there are things that Turkish people can not accept. If negotiations break down next week, Turkish people will be paying for it. But it seems that we do not have any other choice.
Deniz Genc, Lund, Sweden
There's already been a referendum on reunifying Cyprus. While the majority of the population of the North voted for it, the majority of the population of the South voted against and by default for the North to be a separate country. It's time the EU recognised the result of that referendum by recognising the independence of North Cyprus.
Ken Fayers, London UK
All I read about is the misplaced Greek Cypriots, who fled from the North to the South. Don't forget that misplaced Turks fled from South to North also leaving their land behind , for instance Larnaca airport had Turkish owners before 1974 and most of the vinyards were Turk owned. I wish the North of the Island had a PR machine to match the Greeks in the EU, so we can hear more of these truths.
Bob Owen, London
I am a 68 year old pensioner Born in Kyrenia, North Cyprus.I am a British citizen by birth, lived in England for the past 50 years. My daughter and son-in-law live in North Cyprus, So in order to visit them I have to fly with a sick wife via Turkey facing great hardship due to unwanted and longer diverted flights. The air travel embargo is inhuman, uncivilized, the sooner it is lifted, the better it will be for the well-being of the air travellers to the North and the well being of the environment. (There will be less CO2 spewed into the atmosphere as a result). I remind your viewers/ listeners to look back to year 1963 and onwards to find the reasons why Turkish Cypriots could not trust Greek Cypriots. The ethnic cleaning of Turkish Cypriots started that year!!!!
Y.Dener, Stevenage, Herts
When I tell people abroad that I am from Cyprus they often ask if I am from the "Turkish" or the "Greek part". Well, the answer is neither! I am a (Greek) Cypriot born in Ammochostos (Famagusta), a city in the so called "Turkish" part. That fact makes me also a refugee, an unimaginable term in the Europe of 2006. As far as I know Republic of Cyprus (and not Greek or Turkish part) is an internationally recognised country and a full member of the EU, with a part occupied by Turkish troops since 1974. So the real problem that EU politicians fail to address is the Turkish occupation of the north and not the relations between the two ethnic communities. The latter is just an anachronistic excuse, used in certain political agendas, to prolong the current situation and the division of the island. I am very positive that Cypriot (Greek, Turkish and all other minorities) could live peacefully with each other as they are all part of a greater European family.
Neophytos Messios, Leuven, Belgium
Perhaps the best solution for the Cyprus problem is the current bi-partite state.
The Greek Cypriots hate the Turkish and reunification of the Island would only lead to a return of the ethnic cleansing which occured under Archbishop Makarios' regime which foreign governments, including the UK, were happy to ignore.
R. Whitehead, Paphos Cyprus
I wonder why Greek Cypriots (Southern part) did vote against the reunion plan with the Turkish Northern part 2 years ago. That was a great chance for two parts to re-unite but Greeks didn't want it. Only the Turkish site voted YES for the reunification. and this was a UN plan. and now I don't think Greek Cypriots have a right to force Turkish site to open their ports. because after that voting I don't find them sincere anymore and I am sure Turkish Cypriots don't trust them either.
If Spain had joined the EEC before the UK would they have vetoed our accession over Gibralter? I think they might.
You totally forgot the 200,000 Greek Cypriots who were forced to leave their land in the North after Turkey invaded the island in 1974. And you also do not mention what percentage of the 250,000 inhabitants are actually Turkish Cypriots and how many are illegal settlers from Turkey not mentioning the army that is controlling the North. You will find that most Turkish Cypriots have European passports and have left from Cyprus and that they are now a minority in the North.
costas Kaloyeros, Nicosia - Cyprus
What Mr Kaloyeros forgets to mention is the well documented ethnic cleansing inflicted upon the Turkish Cypriots and the muslim minority by Greek Cypriots, which led to the Turkish "intervention/invasion" in the first place.
I served with the UN in Cyprus and have witnessed the unnecessary antagonism from both sides. It's sad that, even after so many years and considering the tragedies going on in other parts of the globe, these Governments are unable to reach peaceful agreement.
If I remember rightly it was the Greek Cyptiots who voted against the reunion plan, which the Turkish Cypriots voted in favour of, and which Turkey was supportive of. They are also the ones who want Turkey to open up there ports to Greek Cypriot traffic, while the rest of the world still maintains an embargo on the Turlish Cypriot side.
I'm not Turkish, but even I can see this is just mad. If Turkey opens it's ports to Greek Cypriot trade then the same will have to be done for the Turlish Cypriots. It's only fair!
Ben Shepherd, Farnham, Surrey
The Ercan airport, was the Timbou airport built on land owned by the government of the Republic of Cyprus before it was captured. This airport's control tower is also causing trouble for air traffic flying over the island as it confuses instructions with the main control tower of Larnaka airport (Ref: Cyprus Weekly of 01/12/06). May I also mention the now declining number of Greek Cypriot who chose to stay in their villages in the north, who also succumb to isolation and reduced rights.
Zoe Stavrinaki, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
The 'ethnic' Greeks and Turks on Cyprus proclaim and describe themselves as being one or the other. They have never lived comfortably together but, as things stand (as in the former Yugoslavia) they are separated by a fence and there is peace as a result. The political shinanigans of both sets of Cypriots, Turkey and the EU are all about self-interest or hidden agendas (EG: Keeping Turkey out of the EU without actually saying it out loud) so it would appear the status quo is the best position for everyone. Let's stop pretending to fix it and leave well alone.
Paul Fischer, Varazdin, Croatia
I have to remind you that the problem is not isolaton but the occupation of [the north] and transfer of population from turkey. Turkish cypriots today are a minority at north.
dimitris kipouros, athens greece
Your article does not make any mention of the 100,000 or so Anatolian settlers (compare with today's northern population of 264,000) who were placed on the north of the island by Turkey; nor does it make mention of the 40,000 Turkish troups still there.
Michael Megrelis, Dublin (Ex-France)
When I read you say in your article that "I ask the President of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Mehmet Ali Talat, what it would mean if Turkey agreed to do what the European Union wants, without getting anything in return"I realise that your article is flawed as you call him the president when the only country who recognises the pseudostate is Turkey.
C Pavlou, London, UK
Why won't the international community just recognise Northern Cyprus as an independent country? Yes, it might annoy the Greek Cypriots, but it's clear from other examples of bi-ethinc states that the two communities could never live tension-free side-by-side. Look at Northern Ireland or, dare I say it, Iraq. Even in Belgium a huge amount of the political agenda is wasted by Walloon-Flemmish disagreements.
Everyone wants an independent Palestine. Montenegro was allowed to separate from Serbia. Northern Cyprus is a democratic state which has been independent for more than 30 years now. What's stopping their recognition?
James, Be'er Sheva, Israel
Greek cypriots are not against the opening of ports but we are still against the occupation and the fact that our families' houses and lands are being used by Turkish invaders for tourism. The opening of ports to countries other than Turkey is just taking things one step closer to having the occupied area officially recognised. Turkey should not be allowed EU entry until cyprus is a unified island with Turkish and Greek Cypriots living together.
Andy, Harrogate, UK / Lefkosia, Cyprus
As a Turkish Cypriot living in UK, hearing all these news about my country hurts me. Turkish Cypriots had very hard life, they have never been supported enough but on the other hand Greek side of the island had always been supported by EU countries and could open themselves to world. North Cyprus is still unrecognised part of the island.
I think the big reason for this isolation in the island is the fligths. We dont have any direct flights and flights are very expensive with KTHY. But to Greek side you can fly very cheaply but again Northen Cyprus is not recognised part of the island, so there are only couple of airlines could fly.
Oz Sevinc, High Wycombe - Bucks
To Oz Sevinc of High-Wycomb. I'm sorry you feel hurt by the circumstances, but maybe it helps you to imagine the pain and sorrow that the people felt which lost their families and homes during the occupation of Cyprus by the Turkish military in 1974.
Alex, Athens, Greece
Turkey must leave Cyprus before there can be any thought of them becoming a full member of the EU, Turkish Cypriots will be afforded the same protection and rights of all other EU citizens once the whole island is fully integrated into the EU. There is no logical reason for the Turks to continue to interfere in another state, an EU state at that when they themselves want to become a member of the same union. It's mind-bogglingly stupid of them to continue with this and opening up a port to trade with Cyprus is simply not good enough. Turkey must understand that to become a member of the EU they have to accept that they cannot run Northen Cyprus like some sort of Turkish mini state. If they can't get this into their heads then they have no business in the EU it's as simple as that!
The Turkish Cypriots are free to travel work and trade in all the arease of the Republic of Cyprus (what is commonly known as the 'Greek South'). In their 'enclave'- an enclave created by the Turkish invasion of the independent Republic in 1974, they can also do what they please, but their Greek compatriots in the South CAN'T. So, please, don't allow Turkey use this as an excuse. Turkey needs to abide by the EU rules fully and without exception if it is to be of no threat to the EU on accession. Otherwise, on joining the EU, it will be the LARGERST and most POPULOUS country by far and it will claim a majority in the group. In Cyprus the turks constitute a minority in every sense - jet they claim rights above all belief. What is Turkey likely to demand once a full member of Europe? If we don't make sure Turkey changes its ways in the human rights, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and other issues, we risk allowing it to impose on the EU its own antiquated beliefs on those issues.
AGNIESE, birmingham uk
Turkey 's problem is not only that it refuses to open up its ports to Cyprus, but that it illegally occupies the northern part of Cyprus and illegally maintains troops there, not allowing its lawful citizens to return to their properties and resume use of them since 1974. Enough with the so-called 'isolation' of the northern part. It is self-inflicted and a direct result of the Turkish invasion in 1974. Why is everyone even contamplating allowing a country illegally occupying EU territory to even discuss its accession into the Union? Just amazing!
Chris Chara, Limassol, Cyprus
CY Turks are a small minority in the country (14%), yet the occupy a disproportionate amount of land, thanks to the Turkish army.
This anomaly would have been cemented by the Annan plan which is hugely unfair to CY Greeks.
The Turks are the old and the new invaders of Cyprus. Why should they be rewarded for their military aggressions? Like any other minority they should have full rights, but they should not be privileged. This would only lead to more problems down the road.
Finally, there are no negotiations between the EU and Turkey. Turkey applied for membership and talks are simply there to find out how they can comply with EU rules in order to join. The EU cannot change its rules according to Turkish wishes. Although this would be true for any club or association that someone wants to join, the Turks seem to have real difficulties understanding this. With their nationalistic mindset they are simply unfit for the EU.
Ronald Gruenebaum, Brussels, Belgium
Denighing peoples right for selfdetermination is an archaic remnant from a time of nationalism resulting from a colonial legacy. We as europeans should move past that and embrace the north of the island as a valuable memberstate. In some respect they are more european in demeanor than their petty intransigent southern Cypriot neighbours. ......and their Greek sponsors in Athens and New York.
Peter Hoffmann (, EUROPE (Hamburg/ London)
Accurate and honest! Thank goodness for the BBC!