Leading Article: After 25 years, there is little hope for Cyprus

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The Independent Culture
PARTITION IS rarely an ideal or even an especially stable answer to ethnic division, as the current tensions in Northern Ireland, the Middle East and Kashmir all demonstrate. Over the years, the people who live in these lands have come to regard political developments in much the same way as the inhabitants who continue to cultivate their vines on its slopes regard Mount Etna: they know it is always possible that it will erupt, but they do not expect every single rumble they hear to lead to disaster

The same is even truer of Cyprus, an island that was effectively divided by the invasion of Turkish troops 25 years ago, and saw a "unilateral declaration of independence" by the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in 1983. The threats last winter by the Greek government to deploy Russian missiles in predominantly Greek southern Cyprus was a very loud rumble indeed. The negotiations for membership of the European Union registered lower on the Richter scale, but again it is impossible to know whether this will lead to the ultimate seismic calamity: conflict between two Nato members, Greece and Turkey.

The ideal solution would be to return to the spirit of the constitution Cyprus was granted on independence from Britain in 1960. It was an intricately balanced affair and, providing as it did for power sharing and mutual renunciation of recidivist claims, resembled a prototype Good Friday agreement.

But that constitution failed, and negotiations on a settlement have foundered. The "olive curtain" that fell across the island in 1974 has attained an air of permanence. Relations between the two communities approach the level of bitterness of the former Yugoslavia (and with some of the same historical Ottoman roots). The rumbles are getting louder. The grounds for optimism are slight.