Newly-elected Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, on his first visit abroad to Greek Cyprus on Monday stressed the necessity of a bi-communal federation on the island with one international identity and said that the Coalition of the Radical Left (Syriza) supported a solution based on U.N. parameters.
Paying his first visit to Cyprus in an attempt to highlight the historical ties between Greece and Greek Cyprus, Tsipras said that the Cyprus issue is on the Greek government’s mind and in its heart.
He said that Greece support to Greek Cyprus will continue in Cyprus reunification talks as he underscored that a just and sustainable solution on the island is of the utmost importance for Turkish-Greek relations, the EU and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean.
He reiterated that he would exert efforts to find a just and effective solution that would benefit all Cypriots.
Touching on the Turkish survey vessel Barbaros in the area where Greek Cyprus intends to conduct exploratory drilling for oil and gas, Tsipras said that Turkey should immediately withdraw the vessel, which he described as an obstacle, before steps could be taken on Cyprus to strengthen inter-communal trust on the island.
Speaking to Daily Sabah, Greek Cypriot government spokesman Nikos Christodoulides said that Tsipras gave positive messages both to Turkish and Greek Cypriots.
“Both Nicosia and Athens want [reunification] talks to start the soonest possible. What matters is to create a positive atmosphere for the talks. … Mr. Tsipras gave a direct message to Turkey by saying that the only way to create close cooperation between Turkey and Greece is to solve the Cyprus issue,” Christodoulides said.
The ongoing dispute on the island started in the 1960s when a Treaty of Guarantee was signed between Turkish and Greek Cypriots over the island along with the British government. The treaty stipulated that Cyprus would not participate in any political or economic union with other states, but three years later, Turkish Cypriots were ousted by force from all bodies of the new republic by Greek Cypriots.
Later, Greek Cyprus claimed to be the representatives of the island calling itself the Republic of Cyprus, which is not recognized by Turkey. All efforts by the international community to end the dispute between 1964 and 1974 failed. When the Greek side tried to expand its power on the island in a coup in 1974, a Turkish peace mission was launched in accordance with the 1960 treaty to prevent it from happening.
Cypriots went to the polls in 2004 to vote on the Annan Plan for Cyprus, which was a U.N. proposal to resolve the dispute by restructuring the island as a United Republic of Cyprus. It proposed a federation of the two states that aimed to unify the Turkish and Greek Cypriot communities. The proposal was revised five times before it was put to a referendum in April 2004 and was supported by 65 percent of Turkish Cypriots and 24 percent of Greek Cypriots, who claimed that the proposal favored Turkish Cypriots.
Last February, reunification talks were revived in the U.N. Buffer Zone in an attempt to unite the island once and for all, however the talks stalled over the of oil exploration.
Tsipras also held talks with nongovernmental organizations, including Turkish Cypriots and party leaders, ahead of his departure for Italy on Tuesday to meet with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.