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36 Years of Illegal Occupation by Turkey

Today marks the 36th anniversary of Turkey's illegal, armed occupation of Cyprus and the subsequent deep division and de facto separation of the island's two main communities; Greek-and-Turkish Cypriots.

The two communities are marking the anniversary in very different ways. The Greek-Cypriots are holding memorial services to remember fallen soldiers and reliving the bitterness of Turkey's invasion of the island in 1974. In contrast, the Turkish-Cypriots are celebrating 'Peace and Freedom Day' and today announced the signing of a 450-million dollar deal with Turkey for an underwater pipeline to pump water to northern Cyprus.

The Turkish-Cypriots have also announced their plans to make the unilaterally-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) the 'Las Vegas' of the Mediterranean with the launch of a new multi-million dollar hotel and casino resort, said the Daily Telegraph today.

Meanwhile, Greece and the Republic of Cyprus have reiterated their call on Turkey to contribute in a tangible way to reunification talks. Talks between President Demetris Christofias and Dervis Eroglu are continuing but have shown little in the way of progress on the issue of property. Turkish-Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu has even gone as far as to tell the Daily Telegraph that current negotiations are 'the last chance', saying that 'the Greek-Cypriots don't like sharing.'

Yesterday, Greek Foreign Minister Demetris Droutsas called for "a solution without the outdated system of guarantors, which do not fit contemporary European reality." To make a complex situation even more complex, without Greece and Cyprus' support, Turkey will continue to be blocked from negotiating its way into the European Union, with eight chapters closed to it until it recognises the Republic of Cyprus as the legal government of the island.

Analysts say that the current positions taken by all parties are dependent on the United Nations holding fast to its own position that the TRNC is an illegal entity based on Turkey's violent invasion that broke international laws. But seemingly that is as far as the UN is willing to go anymore after the failure of the 2004 Annan Plan; the organisation is balking at taking any role but that of a mediator to negotiations and shows little enthusiasm for the lead role in the peace talks. That is hardly surprising after the thrashing the UN received in the mainstream media before, during and after the referendum.

So, are the Greek-and-Turkish Cypriots on their own, and responsible for creating their own reunification plan? If that is the case, then it looks unlikely that current conditions are favourable for such a plan to get to the point where it can be put to referenda, mainly because of the very different views of the two communities' leaders. Christofias wants a bi-zonal federation based on political equality; Eroglu in practice wants two separate states that live as neighbors.

"There is a new geography, two separate states, two peoples, two democracies and two sides (in Cyprus). An agreement to be reached in Cyprus must be based on these realities, on equal sovereignity and be based on the active and actual guarantees of Motherland Turkey," said Eroglu today in comments reported by Turkey's Anadolu Agency.

Every year the question arises; will this be the last anniversary of Turkey's illegal occupation of the island of Cyprus? With each year that passes, people on both sides of the divide lose more and more hope that armed troops will leave anytime soon, and expect to be marking the same anniversary next year.

"It is like we are doing nothing, Turkey is doing everything, the Europeans do not listen to us, the international community has turned its back...these are the messages I am hearing and it saddens me," said Christofias in comments after a memorial service today.


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