Hope for Cyprus: A new effort toward reunification is underway

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It is good news that the Greek and Turkish Cypriots are going to try again to reunify the Eastern Mediterranean island of 1.1 million, which has been split since 1974.

The bad part is that the two groups, 77 percent of whom are Greeks and 18 percent of whom are Turks, have tried before to solve their problem, most recently in 2004. At that time, the Turkish-speaking population voted for what was called the Annan Plan, named after then U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, but the Greek-speakers voted against it.

Ten years ago the European Union under pressure from Greece also passed up a chance to require a resolution of the problem before allowing Greek Cyprus to become a member.

Some different elements are in the pie this time, which may make reaching an agreement easier. Both pieces of the island have new presidents, Nicos Anastasiades of Greek Cyprus and Dervis Eroglu of Turkish Cyprus. The two met at Cyprus’ dividing “green line” Feb. 11 and agreed upon a road map to a confederation made up of separate constituent states — definitely progress.

In addition, Greek Cyprus has high unemployment — 17 percent. It has to pay back a $13.8 billion financial bailout received last year from the International Monetary Fund and the EU. The EU has a lot of other financial problems on its plate at the moment. Turkey has other, internal problems which may make it less interested in holding onto Turkish Cyprus in financial terms. New deposits of gas have been discovered in the Eastern Mediterranean which would be most easily and cheaply marketed in Europe through a pipeline from Cyprus to Turkey, and that would require cooperation and financing.

Finally, there is a general feeling that this problem has been around long enough. Also, many of the people who were hurt or who lost property in the 1974 events have died, reducing bitterness to a degree.

The United Nations will preside over the process, and the United States welcomes it. Cross your fingers. A successful international negotiation ending an old problem would be something to cheer.

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