On Saturday, April 24, progressive sections on both sides of divided Cyprus marched in the capital city Nicosia calling for a federal solution for the peaceful reunion of the communities and the country. The march was attended by various peace groups, progressive political parties and youth/student groups from Northern Cyprus, which is under the occupation of Turkey, and the Republic of Cyprus, where ethnic Greeks are dominant. Adhering to COVID-19 safety protocols, two simultaneous rallies by the two communities were organized on both sides of the Green Line (United Nations Buffer Zone) which divides the capital Nicosia and the country.
Groups including Peace Generation United by Hope, This Country is Our Platform, Progressive Party of Working People (AKEL), United Democratic Youth Organisation (EDON), Hade and SoL Hareket, among others, participated in the march. According to reports, UN Secretary-General António Guterres is likely to convene an informal conference on Cyprus soon, involving the political leadership of both parts of Cyprus along with the three guarantor countries – Turkey, Greece and the UK. Regarding the mobilization on Saturday, EDON stated, “Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots [gathered] together to unite our voice, to pave the way for Federal Resolution again, sending a racing message in view of the upcoming informal Five-Day Conference on Cyprus.”
The British colonial administration that directly ruled Cyprus from 1878 to 1960 intentionally tried to divide the islanders on ethnic lines in order to weaken the independence movement on the island. Even after attaining independence from the British, ethnic tensions prevailed and hyper-nationalists on both the Greek and Turkish sides, with the backing of their respective countries’ establishments, confronted each other, causing the escalation of the ethnic conflict during 1963-64. Later, the intervention of the Greek military in 1974 and the Turkish military’s response resulted in the de-facto division of the country on ethnic lines and the internal displacement of thousands of Cypriots. Currently, the southern part of the island remains as a sovereign state called Republic of Cyprus, while the northern part of the island remains under the occupation of Turkey.
Even though many rounds of talks between the political leadership of the Republic of Cyprus and Turkish Cyprus have been held, far-right and hyper-nationalist sections and parties on both sides have hindered the progress of the negotiations. Progressive sections on both sides are calling for a federal solution for the unification of the politically and ethnically divided island. However, there are hyper nationalist sections in both communities who are not willing to accept mutual reconciliation and unity. The tightening grip of Ankara under Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Northern Cyprus affairs is also a major hindrance in the path of the peace process. Many progressive political figures in Northern Cyprus have been facing persecution by the authorities for their criticism of Erdogan.
With the upcoming informal conference on Cyprus, major progressive parties in both parts of Cyprus, including AKEL, Republican Turkish Party, Communal Democracy Party, United Cyprus Party, New Cyprus Party, Sol Hareket – Left Movement, Workers’ Democracy, Reflection Group for the Modernization of our Society, Left Wing, and others, have issued a joint statement asking for a strategic political agreement towards a bi-zonal and bi-community federal solution with political equality, in full agreement with all relevant UN resolutions and parameters.