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Monday, 6 January, 2003, 10:00 GMT
Cyprus: Is a breakthrough any closer?
Turkey has added fresh hope to the possibility of ending the 30-year stalemate over the divided island of Cyprus.
The head of Turkey's governing party Recep Tayyip Erdogan signalled his determination to resolve the situation and criticised Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, urging him in a television interview to negotiate the reunification of the island.
He also called on Mr Denktash to negotiate on the basis of United Nations proposals that envision Cyprus being divided into cantons like Switzerland.
Mr Erdogan's comments come as Turkey seeks to boost its own campaign to join the European Union.
Brussels last month asked Greek and Turkish Cypriots to reach agreement on the island by the end of February, as part of an invitation for Cyprus to join the EU.
Is a breakthrough any closer for the divided island of Cyprus? What impact do you think Mr Erdogan's comments will have?
This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Khalid Rahim, Canada
A unified Cyprus will help establish and enhance 'good neighbour' ties between Turks and Greeks, and hopefully they will put the long standing hostility behind and look into a bright future together.
The Turkish Cypriots are sick of the world isolating them, and everyone would jump at a solution. But the simple fact is the plan put forward does not treat the Turks as equals. Greece and the very, very right wing South Cyprus government are trying hard to capitalise on Turkey's current weakness.
I, for one, look forward to welcoming the Turkish Cypriots back from the Denktash nightmare and to working with them to build a stable, tolerant and prosperous country. The Republic of Cyprus has had up to 100,000 Muslim Arab residents since the late 1970's and the implosion of Lebanon. The "concerns" over the security of Muslim Cypriots are utterly bogus. Many already live and work in the South. And with accession to the EU, these security arguments are entirely redundant. Furthermore, with Cyprus entirely under EU human rights legislation, what exactly is the basis of having a bizonal, bifederated state as opposed to an entirely unified one?
The Greek Cypriots could now lay back and enjoy the fruits of accession to the EU and ultimately decide the terms of Turkey's future entry. Instead, the decision of Mr Clerides to run for re-election indicates their determination to negotiate. Clerides has the political will and experience to reach a solution for the benefit of both Greek and Turkish Cypriots, Denktash or no Denktash.
Steve Penn, England
The unification must be a slow process because of the difference in wealth between the North and the South. Time must be allowed for the GDP of the North to reach levels of the South. Otherwise the poorer Turks will gradually lose their homes and lands to the wealthy Greeks, and eventually Cyprus will become a Greek island. That is what Turkey is really afraid of.
Because of the greed of the Turkish government and some citizens of the TRNC, Denktas has been put in an impossible situation. Either he accepts the agreement which makes Turkish Cypriots second class citizens or if he won't he'll be replaced with someone who will.
The argument that the Cyprus problem is an obstacle in Turkey's accession to the EU is part of a strategy designed to push Turkey into making concessions. The EU's real reasons for keeping Turkey out are unrelated to Cyprus, and derive from the domestic political and economic considerations of major European states.
I think that continued dialogue and negotiations are the only way to get a long lasting and peaceful solution in Cyprus. However, putting all the blame for the island continuing to be divided on Denktash is totally unfair. If the Greek leadership had not attempted the military coup in 1974, or if the guarantors such as UK had done their job, then the rescue of the Turkish Cypriot's by the Turkish army may never have taken place. It is also important to learn from the recent events in Bosnia and Kosovo in order to ensure that the two communities can live in peace side by side. Yes, continue to talk, but on fair and equal terms.
The ghosts of the likes of Nikos Simpson or Commander Grivas still haunt and frighten the older Turkish Cypriots. Yet many of them are still too young to remember the massacres. The breakthrough will come not when Denktash will bow but when the Turkish (and the Greek) Cypriots will find it safe to live together again. Not an easy option though.
Simon Ahmet, UK
It is imperative to find a lasting solution to the Cyprus problem but equally, it is imperative that any solution does not corrode the rights of the Turkish Cypriots, leading to similar events in 1963.
Can someone explain why the Turkish Cypriots are to be given 28.6% of the island when their population represents only 18.6%of the total population?
I am very happy, this is a huge step forward, for the Turkish Cypriots as well as the Greek Cypriots - it is important to finally have peace on that beautiful island. Both people get along well there, it is the Turkish military that is preventing them from actually having real peace with each other. God bless a united, strong and independent Cyprus, free of Turkey's influence and obsession.
Without support from the Turkish Military, Mr Erdogan would not be able to state his opinion about Mr. Denktash's policies. This indicates a sudden change in Turkish policies about Cyprus. It is a huge step for Turkey to criticise itself. The next step would be to put it into practise.
Al Khan, USA
It is about time that Cyprus is united to its original state, and election be held. The Turkish politicians should keep their affairs to their own country; Cyprus is for the Cypriots.
Congratulations to a European policy that made it clear: "Cyprus will become an EU member with or without the Turkish side." Put the ball right on the side where the problem is. The USA could not do it for obvious reasons, but Europe is getting it done. Let's face it Turkey is finally getting the message: "EITHER ISOLATION, OR EU PARTICIPATION."
All along we wanted a new approach from Ankara and hopefully Mr Erdogan's comments will bring hope to the many Turkish Cypriots who are trying to replace Mr.Denktash.
The optimism may be still too early. It is not only question of Denktash. It is a question of two different peoples and cultures. If the unification goes ahead it will be very slow and start with almost independent federal states and thereafter slowly integrate back into a single nation.
The policies of division have been allowed to continue for far too long. Denktash has never shown good will during many UN attempts to bring the two sides together. I hope that this development will see the end of Denktash and pave the way for Turkish Cypriots to have a constructive voice to represent them and work towards a united Cyprus!
Mr Erdogan's outspoken criticism of Mr Denktash is indeed a breakthrough for an end to the Cyprus stalemate. However, we should not underestimate the fact that though courageous in his words, Mr Erdogan is not (yet) the prime minister and perhaps more importantly the all-important Turkish generals have yet to express themselves.
Whilst Denktash is in power in the north it is unlikely there will be an agreement as far as I can see. His hardline attitude combined with the Greek Cypriot viewpoint on the "Turkish occupation" as they see it isn't likely to result in an arrangement which both sides would consider amicable. Perhaps when Denktash is replaced the Turkish Cypriot standpoint may soften slightly to allow meaningful dialogue. But I for one will not be holding my breath.
About time the Turkish politicians realise that their Cypriot brethren are fed up with isolation and their dictatorial politicians. The so-called hardliners are no more than corrupt men in league with the Turkish military to keep the status quo - the majority of Turkish Cypriots want the opportunity to participate in the free world; the chance to be part of the EU will ensure their safety, not the presence of the Turkish Army.
Hopefully now that Ankara has spoken, Denktash will be forced to retire and Cyprus will be reunited at last.
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