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Cyprus: Status of U.N. Negotiations and Related Issues

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Cyprus has been divided since 1974. Greek Cypriots, 76% of the population, live in the southern two-thirds of the island. Turkish Cypriots, 19% of the populace, live in the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" (TRNC), recognized only by Turkey, with about 36,000 Turkish troops providing security. United Nations peacekeeping forces (UNFICYP) maintain a buffer zone between the two. Since the late 1970s, the U.N., with U.S. support, has promoted negotiations aimed at reuniting the island as a federal, bicommunal, bizonal republic.

In recent times, the U.N. Secretary General's April 5, 1992, "Set of Ideas" was a major, but unsuccessful, framework for negotiations for an overall settlement. Next, both sides accepted U.N. confidence-building measures only in principle and they were never recorded nor implemented.

The prospect of Cyprus's European Union (EU) accession and its eventual membership intensified and complicated settlement efforts. A f t e r five rounds of U.N.-mediated proximity (indirect) talks beginning in December 1999, Secretary General Kofi Annan presented his "observations" on substance and procedure on November 8, 2000, leading Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to withdraw from the talks for a year. Denktash and (Greek) Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides finally met on December 4, 2001 and agreed to begin direct talks on January 16, 2002. On November 11, 2002, Annan submitted a comprehensive settlement Plan based on Swiss and Belgian government models; but the two sides did not agree on it. After still more negotiations, Annan announced on March 11, 2003 that his efforts had failed. Cyprus signed an accession treaty to join the EU on April 16.

The December 14, 2003, Turkish Cypriot parliamentary elections in northern Cyprus produced a new government determined to reach a settlement. The U.N. led new negotiations from February 19-March 22, 2004, and again they failed. Talks continued in Switzerland, with Greek and Turkish leaders present. Annan presented a final, revised Plan on March 31. In referenda on April 24, 76% of Greek Cypriot voters rejected the Plan, while 65% of Turkish Cypriot voters accepted it. Annan blamed (Greek) Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos for the result. Cyprus joined the EU on May 1, 2004. There have been no direct or indirect negotiations since 2004.

Some Members of Congress have urged the Administration to be more active, although they have not proposed an alternative to the U.N.-sponsored talks. Since the referenda, the Administration has been working to end the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots in order to diminish economic disparities between them and the Greek Cypriots and pave the way for reunification. Some Members have questioned this policy. This CRS report replaces CRS Issue Brief IB89140, Cyprus: Status of U.N. Negotiations, by Carol Migdalovitz, and will be updated as developments warrant.