Hot summer ahead for Cyprus as UN tries to bridge Greek-Turkish division
As the United Nations strives to restart the suspended intercommunal talks on Cyprus, the Turks on this divided island are preparing for a unilateral declaration of independence.
Meanwhile, tension between the 600,000 Greeks and 150,000 Turks is rising, and in the words of a Western diplomat: ''It looks like we are going to have a hot summer in this Mediterranean island.''
Cyprus, a focus of intercommunal strife and international crisis in the 1960s and '70s, has been fairly quiet and has dropped from world public attention in the last three years. The main reason is representatives of the two communities have been talking regularly since 1980, under UN auspices.
Very little progress has been achieved so far in these meetings, but the fact that the two hostile communities have been engaged in talks has at least avoided new tension.
Now, the talks are suspended. The last meeting, scheduled for May 31, did not take place. This was because the Turkish side - or the so-called Turkish Federated State of Cyprus - decided not to attend these talks ''under the present circumstances.''
Moreover, the Turkish leadership in the north (the Turks control 38 percent of the 3,500 square mile island) has decided to hold a referendum that would practically lead to the division of the small country.
What provoked the Turkish Cypriots to withdraw from the talks and to start ''the momentum of independence,'' as their leader Raouf Denktash put it, was the recent decision by the Cyprus government to take the Cyprus issue to the UN.
The UN resolution, adopted on May 13 with the support of the nonaligned countries (the United States abstained), called for the early withdrawal of Turkish troops from the island, the return of refugees to their homes, and renewed efforts by the UN Secretary-General to find a solution to the problem.
Soon after the Cyprus-backed resolution was passed, Mr. Denktash announced the suspension of the talks and plans to move toward a unilateral declaration of independence.
Failure to have the talks resume will further encourage Mr. Denktash to declare independence. The Greek Cypriot authorities pin their hopes on the pressures that the West (mainly the US) could exercise on Ankara.
There is a strong belief here that Ankara will not permit Mr. Denktash to proclaim a separate state. This would lead to pressures and eventually to sanctions against Turkey - hardly appealing to Turkey's ruling generals.