A 25 year impasse.

Author:Gorvett, Jon
Position:UN peace initiatives in Cyprus
 
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For a quarter of a century the island of Cyprus has remained divided. This summer a new initiative is expected but prospects of any early solution to the impasse appear slim.

The village of Pila is a small, dusty huddle of buildings not far from the lazy sounds of the eastern Mediterranean's languid sea. Lying folded into the dry Cypriot earth between a low range of hills and a sun baked plain, like most villages on the island it centres around a small square, where the men sit playing backgammon in white-washed tea houses, while street peddlers slowly wander from house to house, calling out their wares.

Yet Pila is also quite unique, for in the middle of its square stands a UN observation post. Towering above it to the north is a Turkish army listening station, while to the south, not far from the outskirts, is a Greek Cypriot border checkpoint. Each keeps a careful watch on Pila's inhabitants, because, unlike other villages in Cyprus, Pila has a Turkish Cypriot tea house on one side of its square, and a Greek Cypriot one on the other.

Pila, one of the island's last truly bi-communal villages, is situated inside the buffer zone, an area that became known as the Green Line due to a shortage of pencils of any other colour in a UN command post in 1974, when a line in the Cypriot earth had to be drawn. Nowadays, that frontier is as solid as ever, though the gunfire that was echoing around the island back then, 25 years ago this July, has long since ceased.

On 20 July 1974, thousands of Turkish soldiers stormed up the beaches of northern Cyprus and fought their way inland against determined Greek Cypriot opposition.

The Turks said they had come to prevent a massacre of their ethnic brethren, the island's 150,000 Turkish Cypriots, descendants of Turkish settlers who moved to the majority Greek-speaking island during three centuries of Ottoman rule.

Such fears were based on some terrible realities. In 1963-64, the recently independent, unified, bi-communal Republic of Cyprus, its population roughly one-third Turkish Cypriot and two-thirds Greek Cypriot, had been the scene of widespread attacks by Greek nationalist gunmen on Turkish communities.

The Republic was established in 1960 after the withdrawal of the island's British colonial rulers following a guerrilla campaign by the Greek Cypriot pan-Hellenists, EOKA. They fought with the support of the powerful Greek Orthodox Church to kick out the British and join the island to Greece.

The objective...

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