Turkey, Greece, and the Cyprus Problem: Prospects and Pitfalls

The Cyprus dispute, which can be traced to events of the late 1940s, has become one of the most intractable regional conflicts of the post-WWII era. Numerous attempts to arrive at a peaceful settlement through mediation or direct talks between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots have failed.1 UN Secretary-Generals from U Thant to Ban Ki-moon have been preoccupied with trying to resolve the Cyprus problem; it is the most “frustrating,” “thankless,” and “impossible job in the world” (Newman 2001: 127). And, not surprisingly, “the rest of the world is fed up with the Cyprus problem,” which has become synonymous with intractability (Bahçeli and Rizopoulos 1996/1997: 30; Risher 1992a: 3).2
For the two “mother” countries, Turkey and Greece, the Cyprus problem has been a nuisance at best and a burden at worst. Amicable relations between the two countries had persisted throughout the 1930s and even endured through the Second World War, but came to an abrupt end in 1954. Since then, the Cyprus quagmire has poisoned various attempts by Greece and Turkey to resolve bilateral differences (such as the dispute over the Aegean Sea, among others) and establish friendly relations. Over the last several years, Cyprus has also become a major obstacle to Turkey’s EU accession process, much to the delight of many in France, Germany, Austria, and elsewhere in Europe, as well as members of the anti-Turkish lobby in Greece and the anti-EU lobby in Turkey.