Cyprus announces shift of policy towards Turkey

In this file photo taken on May 18, 2017, Cyprus' Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ioannis Kasoulides gives a press conference with his Russian counterpart in Nicosia. (IAKOVOS HATZISTAVROU / AFP)

NICOSIA – Cyprus' Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said on Saturday that his country's policies towards Turkey have shifted in recent weeks away from confrontation towards confidence-building measures.

Cyprus' Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said the Cypriot government has moved away from pushing for EU sanctions on Turkey for actions violating the sovereign rights of Cyprus on land and in the eastern Mediterranean

Kasoulides said the Cypriot government has moved away from pushing for EU sanctions on Turkey for actions violating the sovereign rights of Cyprus on land and in the eastern Mediterranean.

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Cyprus was divided in 1974 after a Turkish military operation in reaction to a coup by Greek army officers serving in Cyprus. Its northern part is controlled by Turkish troops and run by a so-called Turkish Cypriot administration, which was condemned by the United Nations as illegal and is only recognized by Turkey.

In recent weeks, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades has been promoting a new confidence-building policy between the two countries, in meetings with other EU leaders. This follows moves by authorities in the Turkish-controlled part of Cyprus to re-open Varosha, an area in the Cypriot city of Famagusta which has been fenced off since 1974.

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The Cypriot government has been proposing that customs at the port of Famagusta should be operated by the EU, so as to facilitate trade with the outside world. It is also proposing a UN-operated airport in the Turkish-controlled part of Cyprus, for direct flights to other countries.

It says this will satisfy Turkish Cypriots' desire to end their isolation from the EU and the rest of the world.

Kasoulides said that the measures being proposed could become reality provided that Turkey hands Varosha to the UN, as provided by UN Security Council resolutions.

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The proposal was dismissed by the right-wing nationalist leadership of the Turkish Cypriot community, but supported by left-wing Turkish Cypriot parties, which said that it would put an end to the isolation of their community.