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Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson February 10, 2012

Settlement talks are continuing, but they're struggling

During the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama promised to "show U.S. leadership in seeking to negotiate a political settlement on Cyprus. He believes strongly that Cyprus should remain a single, sovereign country in which each of the two communities on the island is able to exercise substantial political authority within a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation."

Since 1974, Cyprus has been divided. Two-thirds of the island is under the control of an internationally recognized government that is predominantly Greek-Cypriot. It is a member of the European Union. The remaining one-third under the control of a Turkish Cypriot government that is recognized only by Turkey.

According to the U.S. State Department's country background page on Cyprus, "The United States regards the status quo on Cyprus as unacceptable. Successive U.S. administrations have viewed U.N.-led intercommunal negotiations as the best means to achieve a fair and permanent settlement."

On-again, off-again negotiations under United Nations auspices have been under way for decades. The most recent round of talks began in May 2010.

Before a U.N.-called meeting of Cypriot leaders in late January 2012, the Guardian reported that "the prospects for a settlement ... remain as distant as ever."

After those talks concluded, Voice of America reported on Jan. 26, 2012, that "United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has acknowledged U.N. talks on Cyprus have ended with little tangible progress, but added he may call an international conference in late April or early May on a settlement to resolve the division of the island."

VOA reported that "negotiations between President Demetris Christofias, who heads the internationally recognized Greek-Cypriot government, and Turkish-Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu have effectively stalled and are in jeopardy of collapse. Commentators originally believed that the U.N. chief might succeed in Cyprus where others had faltered, but he acknowledges major issues, such as property abandoned by displaced Greek Cypriots then occupied by settlers from mainland Turkey, remain unresolved."

If the talks turn in a more positive direction, we'll adjust our rating. But for now, the downbeat assessments of the current round of talks suggest that the likelihood of progress seems distant. So we rate this a Promise Broken.

Our Sources

State Department Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, "Background Note: Cyprus," Oct. 31, 2011

The Guardian, "Farewell to an era - but island can't move on: Legacy of Turkish Cypriot leader survives as failure of talks frustrates EU and UN," Jan. 21, 2012 (accessed via Nexis)

Voice of America, "U.N. Tries to Revive Faltering Cyprus Peace Talks," Jan. 26, 2012

Robert Farley
By Robert Farley December 15, 2009

Obama has promoted settlement of Cyprus issue with Turkish officials

President Barack Obama visited Turkey in April, and during a speech to the Turkish Parliament in Ankara on April 6, 2009, he addressed the Cyprus issue.

Cyprus, an island nation in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, is a country divided, with the south controlled by the government of the Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish military occupying the north. The Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities are separated by a United Nations buffer zone and tensions and conflict have persisted for decades.

"Advancing peace also includes the disputes that persist in the Eastern Mediterranean. And here there's a cause for hope," Obama said in his address to the Turkish Parliament. "The two Cypriot leaders have an opportunity through their commitment to negotiations under the United Nations Good Offices Mission. The United States is willing to offer all the help sought by the parties as they work towards a just and lasting settlement that reunifies Cyprus into a bizonal and bicommunal federation."

On Oct. 17, 2009, President Obama and President Abdullah Gul of Turkey spoke by telephone, and according to a White House readout of the conversation provided to the press, one of the issues discussed was "the need for sustained engagement in resolving the Cyprus problem and in promoting stability in Bosnia-Herzegovina."

And then on Dec. 7, 2009, Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey traveled to the United States and met privately with President Obama. In remarks made by the two to the press afterward, neither mentioned Cyprus by name. But according to a White House press release in advance of the visit, one of the issues Obama planned to discuss was "promoting a settlement of the Cyprus problem."

We think those diplomatic efforts warrant this promise moving to In the Works.

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