CYPRUS: THE UNRESOLVED CONFLICT ,
The Cold War is over, but a great number of ethnic disputes remain unresolved. Indeed, the post-Cold
War system has not proven conducive to ending such conflicts because governments have now turned
inward to concentrate on domestic issues while, at the same time, public opinion is not supportive of
foreign policy adventures unless they are directly related
to national interests. Finally, the revival of nationalist aspirations makes it even more difficult to resolve
Cyprus represents one of the most enduring and problematic of these ethnic disputes. Since 1960, the year Cyprus gained its independence from Great Britain, the Greek and Turkish Cypriots have been in conflict with each other, culminating in the arrival of the United Nations Peace-Keeping Force in 1964 and the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974. Conflicts involving ethnic groups have always been difficult to resolve, and the Cyprus dispute is no exception. However, the strategic location and the unique history of the island explain the involvement of many parties in Cyprus and the difficulty in resolving the dispute.
Greek and Turkish Responsibilities
A number of current disputes between Greece and Turkey are made worse by the historical environment that existed between the two countries. Historically, the two countries had frequent wars, especially from 1892 to 1922 (1) although the first war goes back to Greece's liberation from Ottoman rule in 1821. This historical legacy of frequent wars creates a situation where the Greeks and Turks cannot trust each other. The Greeks mistrust the Turks because of the Ottoman rule, and the Turks mistrust the Greeks because of their liberation from Ottoman rule and because of Megali Idea (2), a dream of uniting all territories that once were Greek.
The present disputes between the two nations spring partially from this historical animosity. The most serious dispute between the two nations is that over the continental shelf. The Greeks and Turks cannot agree on how it is to be divided between them. The
continental shelf has become a question not only of international law but also of energy. Such an issue
could spark a war between Greece and Turkey if Turkey decides to authorize exploration for oil in
territory that Greece considers hers.
A second dispute between the two nations is related to the air control responsibilities in the Aegean. While Turkey argues that it should control a larger part of the Aegean airspace, Greece claims that it belongs to her. Likewise, the two countries disagree about the fortification of the Aegean islands. Greece argues that because they are defenseless against a Turkish attack, they have to be fortified, especially since the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus. The Greek government also points out that Turkey has fortified two of its islands in the Aegean and that according to the U.N. Charter, islands have the right to defend themselves.
Underlying these territorial claims is the continuing suspicion concerning the Greek and Turkish minorities living in Turkey and Greece respectively. Both the Greeks and Turks accuse each other of mistreating minorities within their countries. Despite the arguments made by the two governments in their own defense, whenever there is a problem between them the minorities are harassed and mistreated. Setting the atmosphere for this was the killing and expulsion of over a million Greeks from Turkey in 1923 when Turkey decided to create a national state (Ziegler 88). The economic, social, and political ramifications of this were devastating for Greece. All of a sudden there were over a million people needing homes, work, and clothing. The Greek government also had to decide where to resettle those people and what, if any, actions were to be taken against Turkey.
All of these disputes, except the last one, came into existence after Cyprus became an independent nation. The fortification of the Aegean islands and, to a lesser degree, the airspace control dispute were mainly caused by the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus. Those disputes affect not only Greek-Turkish relations but also the Cyprus situation. The two nations have different views of the problem and, as a result, it is