There is one sign of hope – the village of Pyla. Despite the1974 split between the two sides Turkish and Greek Cypriots have continued to co-exist in what is described as a marriage of convenience in a report dated 29th March 2009 from Menelaos Hadicostis in the Taiwan News. The village straddles the line which serves as a United Nations designated buffer zone, a line which gives 3,355 square kilometers in the northern Turkish Cypriot controlled region and slightly less than twice that amount, some 5,895 square kilometers lying in Greek Cypriot control to the south.
This fact of geography means that it is constantly patrolled by United Nations forces which provide a safe environment for its citizens, 300 Turkish Cypriots and 5 times that amount of Greek Cypriots. According to the report local Turkish leader Nejdet Ermetel Enver has predicted that this co-existence may be possible throughout the island. He describes the future as ‘Separated, but not divorced’ and seems to see future peaceful coexistence as being a possibility.
‘Cyprus solution is simple,” says ‘Both sides have to accept they are partners. ’ At present however, in Pyla at least, the villagers mix every day, visit each other’s coffee shops and build homes that appear to be very similar , with the mosque’s complete with minaret and loud speakers only a short distance form the belfry of the local Greek Orthodox church.
Administration, despite the fact that each side has separate municipal authorities, seems in the main to work well with only occasional minor disputes. Outside the village however, only a few hundred yards away, there is a Turkish guard post and there are around 35,000 Turkish troops north of the line facing some 10,00 Greek Cypriot soldiers along the whole of the 112 mile buffer.
Meanwhile talks between the leaders of the counties two ethnic communities, Talks between Turkish Cypriot, Mehmet Ali Talat Mehmet “president” of the “TRNC” i. e. the largely unacknowledged Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus elected on the 24 April 2005, after “presidential” elections on 17 April 2005 and the Greek Cypriot Dimitris Christofias, have been taking place since September 2008, the election of the new Greek Cypriot president serving as the impetus for these new debates.
However even his election might be considered to be a cause of contention as the post of Vice President is vacant- this would normally be taken by a Turkish Cypriot and of the House of Representatives or Vouli Antiprosopon 80 seats, 56 are filled by the Greek Cypriots and 24 are assigned to Turkish Cypriots, but these latter places remain vacant, thus effectively giving the Turkish Cypriots no official representation of real voice in island affairs.
Despite 5 months having already passed it seems that there is a long way to go before a positive result emerges from these discussions – but perhaps at last there is the will to reach such a point, despite the fact that complex issues involving such matter as security agreements , property arrangements and so on. The two leaders, who are in general supported by their respective communities, have said that they are committed to arriving at a peaceful solution. Although both leaders say they want peace it does seem that perhaps they see that in rather different terms, one from the other.
Mr Talat is described as wanting a more devolved union and a percentage higher representation by Turkish Cypriots in federal institutions. Mr Christofias is seeking a powerful executive in order that any deal reached has no possibility of unraveling into formal partition. Greek Cypriots are described as fearing that mainland Turkey is seeking to formalize its presence in Cyprus, using intervention rights it wants written into any deal Members of the Greek speaking community claim that Turkey is meddling behind the scenes and so slowing the progress of the peace talks.
A member of the Turkish Cypriot community, Vehbi Mehmet, 50 is quoted in the report as saying “This is the last chance . These two (leaders), if they don’t do it, nobody else will. ” According to Micheal Jansen’s article of 1999 the Turks say that the Cyprus problem has been solved but The Greek side on the other hand believe also pose a threat to the stability of the eastern Mediterranean in general. Little has changed in hard fact since that report.
Perhaps though attitudes are finally softening. However it seems clear that merely removing the Green Line will not solve the problem of Cyprus. That will only come to pass when common sense overcomes national pride and xenophobia, but would at least allow people to go about their everyday business without having to apply for a visa every time they need to visit the other side of town. Perhaps somewhere in the future there will be a Romeo and Juliet pair brave enough to step out across the divide.
Such a couple would no doubt meet huge difficulties, but at least it would make things easier for the next generation. Perhaps a lesson can be drawn from Ulster where integrated schools have resulted in a generation no longer in fear of the other side – close proximity tends to help people to realize the others aren’t so different. However Ulster did at least have a common language, and even there some rumbles continue.