Turkish, Greek Cypriot leaders meet in Davos, property issue main obstacle
by Ali Ünal
ANKARAJan 21, 2016 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Ali Ünal
Jan 21, 2016 12:00 am
Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akıncı and the Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades met Thursday at the Swiss resort of Davos. Upon an invitation from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the leaders of the divided island will evaluate the latest stage of reunification talks at a joint meeting in Davos on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum. Ban's invitation to Davos is a good sign that the ongoing talks between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders have made significant progress in recent months.
Akıncı and Anastasiades have so far reached an agreement on three of the six topics for Cyprus reunification. Due to this positive momentum, all politicians from guarantor states as well as EU officials have expressed their confidence that negotiators will reach a final agreement to reunite Cyprus within this year "I think that, while problems have not been overcome yet, we may be closer to a solution than ever since 2004," Greek academic Ioannis Grigoriadis from Bilkent University said on Wednesday, pointing to the positive atmosphere on the island just days after he completed a field visit to Cyprus.
"At the moment, everyone seems optimistic about reunification, but the details of the agreement are not clear yet," Professor Mensur Akgün, director of the Global Political Trends Center (GPoT), said after visiting the island. He also said: "The Turkish and Greek Cypriot communities will have made their final decision when the conditions and cost of reunification become clear."
The issue of property is the most complicated among the six main topics of negotiation. "The main focus now is to conclude the agreement with as little disruption as possible on property between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots who lost their homes before in 1974 and other times. We are seeking ways to identify exactly who will be entitled to reinstatement [of property] and who will be getting other types of compensation," U.N. special adviser for Cyprus, Espen Barth Eide, told Daily Sabah last month.
It is estimated that up to 15 billion euros might be required as compensation for people unable to reclaim their property, and finding this amount of money will be the most challenging issue ahead of reunification. "There are some pledges by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker for substantial financial aid, but there are no concrete figures," Grigoriadis said. However, Akgün drew attention to pledges from the U.S. and EU of several million euros, which is far below the requirement.
"Billions of euros are required to solve the property issue and we still don't know how this fund will be raised," Akgün said, and warned that a lack of funding could jeopardize any settlement for reunification.According to Grigoriadis, "a concerted fundraising campaign is essential from both communities." Akgün suggests that "leaders of both communities should pay a visit to world capitals to raise the money."