Cyprus wants more EU involvement in reunification efforts, president says

Cypriot President Christodoulides visits Germany
Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides attends a press conference after talks at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany May 25, 2023. REUTERS/Nadja Wohlleben

ATHENS, May 25 (Reuters) - Cyprus wants more direct involvement of the European Union in attempts to end the decades-old division of the island, its President Nikos Christodoulides said on Thursday.

Cyprus was split in a Turkish invasion in 1974 triggered by a brief coup engineered by the military junta then ruling Greece, and its enduring partition is a source of friction between NATO allies Greece and Turkey.

The Turkish side has always wanted to keep EU involvement in peace talks at arms' length, seeing the bloc as possibly biased because both Cyprus and Greece are member states, unlike the breakaway Turkish-backed north of the island.

"The Republic of Cyprus is a European Union member state, the Cyprus problem is a European problem, and its resolution directly affects the European Union," Christodoulides said after meeting German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin.

"In the current geopolitical environment, following the Russian invasion in Ukraine, the European Union can - and must - contribute decisively in the restart of talks, always within the United Nations framework," he said.

A Greek Cypriot government represents the whole island in the EU, though its authority in practice ends at the 1974 truce line splitting the two sides. The breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in Cyprus's north is recognised only by Ankara.

The last round of peace talks between the two sides collapsed in 2017.

Christodoulides, who represents the Greek Cypriot side in peace talks held under the auspices of the U.N., said the EU had the "tools and the incentives that could lead to a mutually-agreed solution for the Cypriot people, Greek and Turkish Cypriots, for Turkey, for the European Union".

He further said Cyprus was committed to upholding EU sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine and urged the bloc to support sectors, such as shipping, that have felt the impact of such measures.

"Where there is a cost for European industries due to the decisions that we take ..., the EU should intervene to support those sectors," Christodoulides said.

Reporting by Renee Maltezou, Angeliki Koutantou, Karolina Tagaris; writing by Michele Kambas; editing by Alex Richardson and Mark Heinrich

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