Holidays for all in Cyprus peace plan

Greek Cypriots want more land and the right to go home; Turkish Cypriots want a share of power and a place in the international community. Both sides would get more holidays and more money as well as a new national anthem — without any words. The United States wants to satisfy key Muslim ally Turkey; the European Union wants stability on its new eastern border; the United Nation wants to get out of its hair a trouble spot that has defied solution for 30 years.

These are the issues facing Greek and Turkish Cypriots when they vote in separate referendums on Saturday on a plan to reunite the island after 30 years apart.

A “yes” means a united island joins the EU on May 1.

A “no” denies both more than one billion dollars in aid, land former colonial power Britain is ready to give up from bases it holds, and what US Secretary of State Colin Powell calls a chance for peace that will not come again for decades.

The 9,000-page plan gives Cyprus a new tricolour flag, an anthem you can only hum to — no-one has been game enough to come up with words — and combined Christian and Muslim holidays that would give Cypriots more days off than any other EU citizen.

It proposes a powersharing federal government system drawn on the constitution of Switzerland, linking two ethnic and autonomous states of Greek and Turkish Cypriots.

MORE PEACEKEEPERS

Smaller than the U.S. state of Connecticut, Cyprus hosts one of the world’s longest-serving United Nations peacekeeping forces and three NATO armies.

Blue berets from countries as far away as Chile man a ceasefire line laced with mines, separating people on both sides whose memories are still raw at being forced from their homes.

Ironically, if the peace deal is approved, the 1,200-strong peacekeeping force will swell to at least 5,000.

The United Nations will oversee Turkish Cypriot land handovers over a three-year period. Domestic armies will be disbanded and Greece and Turkey will scale down troops to below 1,000 each by 2018.

The United States and Britain see a Cyprus settlement as crucial to efforts to stabilise the eastern Mediterranean and open the way for NATO-member Turkey to join the European Union.

Turkey invaded northern Cyprus in 1974 after a Greek Cypriot coup engineered by the military then ruling Greece.

If a deal flounders, only the Greek Cypriot part of Cyprus, seen as representing the whole island, will join the EU in May, complicating Turkey’s own hopes of joining.

Turkish Cypriots, who control about 36 percent of Cyprus, would relinquish up to seven percent of land to Greek Cypriots in the north-west and the eastern coast.

Varosha, a sprawling ghost town on the eastern coast with some of the best beaches on the Mediterranean island, would be given back as early as mid-August.

NUMBER CRUNCHING

The handover would allow an estimated 120,000 Greek Cypriots back to their ancestral homes and property, out of an estimated 200,000 displaced by the 1974 invasion.

About 50,000 Turkish Cypriots living in the area would have to leave, triggering the largest population shift in Europe since the Balkan wars of the 1990s.

A property and compensation board would handle remaining claims from people who would lose territory from the transfer. Each of them would be entitled to one third of their property and be fully compensated for the rest.

Up to 50,000 Greek Cypriots would be able to return to their homes and live under a Turkish Cypriot administration.

In a bid to stem the flow of settlers from Turkey and Greece, there would be restrictions on nationals from both countries residing in Cyprus.

The new nation would be ruled by a nine-member presidential council of six Greek Cypriots and three Turkish Cypriots who would rule in 20-month cycles by rotation for a five-year term.

Nicosia
author: Michele Kambas

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