Greek-Cypriots mark 50 years of independence

Athens/Nicosia – Greek Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias called on the Turkish Cypriots to test the will of the Greek Cypriots for a Cyprus settlement as the south marked 50 years of independence on Friday.

In his address to the Cypriot people on the occasion of the Republic of Cyprus anniversary, Christofias said he wanted to see his homeland reunited and its people working together for the collective good of the country.

‘We are striving to achieve a just, viable and functional settlement under circumstances that will end the Turkish occupation and will reunite our country and the people,’ he said.

Cyprus has since 1974 been divided into an internationally recognised Greek Cypriot south and a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north, after Turkey invaded the northern third of the island in response to a Greek-inspired coup.

UN-led talks are under way between the leaders of the two communities of Cyprus, Christofias and his Turkish Cypriot counterpart Dervis Eroglu, to find a negotiated settlement for unification.

While both sides agree to uniting the island under a federal power-sharing system, they cannot agree how that would work.

The question of future governance is an integral part of the problem, as well as disputes over the rights of thousands of displaced persons and the presence of about 30,000 Turkish troops in the north.

In 2004, the European Union admitted Cyprus, represented by the Greek Cypriots even though they had rejected a UN peace plan accepted by the Turkish Cypriots.

Referring to the current UN-led negotiations, Christofias said the process was not proceeding to his satisfaction.

‘Turkey continuously vows that it wants a settlement by the end of this year, unfortunately its actions are far from its public declarations and its behaviour proves that it really is not ready for a settlement,’ he said.

‘I cannot hide the fact that we encounter problems with the positions and the approach of the Turkish Cypriot side and with Turkey’s police on Cyprus,’ Christofias added.

He said there are ‘no regrets for making a goodwill gesture to the Turkish Cypriots by accepting a bizonal, bicommunal federation as the solution in Cyprus but warned that he is not prepared to make any concessions to foreigners.’

He said that irrespective of the difficulties, Greek Cypriots ‘envisage a reunited Cyprus where all Cypriots live and work together for the common good of the country… we reject categorically partition and we are determined to fight against it.’

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