- The Washington Times - Friday, July 20, 2001

While some of the world's great democracies celebrate their independence in July, Cyprus marks yet another tragic anniversary today of the invasion by Turkey's military forces on July 20, 1974, and the forcible division of the country and its people.
Twenty-seven years later, when most of the world embraces reconciliation, integration and cooperation, the reunification of Cyprus remains hostage to a perpetual stalemate reinforced by Turkey's 35,000 troops occupying one-third of the island.
Yet, there is new hope as a result of the European Union enlargement process. Today, Cyprus is the leading candidate for membership in the European Union during the next phase of enlargement, expected to take place by 2004. Cyprus has emerged as a modern, sound and advanced economy, ranking among the top 20 most successful economies in the world in terms of per capita income (measured in purchasing power parity). Despite the 27-year-old occupation of more than a third of its territory, Cyprus has developed into a vibrant international services and banking center, sustained by successful tourism, telecommunications and shipping sectors.
Turkey has also been declared a EU candidate, though accession negotiations are still on hold pending fulfillment of the necessary criteria. But, by leveraging Cyprus' inevitable early membership and Turkey's pursuit of its own accession, Europe is seeking to encourage a settlement of the 27-year-old conflict, by changing the context in which a search for a solution has foundered.
By linking Turkey's EU progress to its pursuit of peace in Cyprus, the EU boldly articulated a new vision of cooperative security. A Europe that encompasses a peaceful Eastern Mediterranean, with Cyprus, Greece and Turkey all as EU members, would unleash a new dynamic and create new common ground. This is in the world's best interest. Paradoxically, it is this very European enlargement that is being targeted by Turkey's threats to derail Cyprus' best opportunity to reunify within a safe and secure Europe.
The United States is in the best position to show Ankara the benefits of a lasting solution in Cyprus, achievable only by moving beyond outmoded policies and attitudes, toward peace, the rule of law and economic integration. Moreover, in making this case, Washington is not alone. Turkish opinion leaders and important voices from within the Turkish Cypriot community are increasingly expressing their preference for the benefits of EU accession. Specifically, 90 percent of Turkish Cypriots support EU membership. Here's why:
They, too, will be able to enjoy Cyprus' economic success once the last divided nation in Europe is reunited. They also realize that EU membership will further boost their economic opportunities and secure the kinds of personal guarantees and human rights enjoyed by EU citizens. A recent study by the US government shows that gross domestic product would grow 5.5 percent in a reunited Cyprus. Turkish Cypriots would experience dramatic improvements in their daily lives anywhere from 60 percent to 150 percent higher growth than in today's unnatural and senseless division. Finally, EU membership would unlock vital and substantial funds for regional development, targeted for those who need it most — i.e. the Turkish Cypriots, who have been lagging behind economically as a result of the occupation.
Ironically, it might be Turkey that would stand to gain most from a Cyprus unified and member of the EU. Ankara would be relieved of the heavy spending to sustain the military occupation and other subsidies channeled into the occupied area, totaling nearly half a billion dollars annually. With more room to maneuver, Turkey could devote greater resources to help its citizens weather the economic crisis and achieve a solid GDP growth of 3 percent, to preserve its International Monetary Fund support, now totaling $27 billion. Perhaps most importantly, such a bold move to resolve the Cyprus problem would demonstrate the Turkish government's capacity for vision and leadership to achieve what has been an objective for decades: EU membership.
The peace dividends would extend throughout Cyprus, in the region and around the world. The total demilitarization of Cyprus would guarantee stability and security, attract foreign investments and solidify prosperity. Greek-Turkish relations could be fully normalized. Turkey could pursue its long-lasting dream of being fully integrated into Europe. And the international community would celebrate the end of one of the longest conflicts based on regional integration and cooperation, with possible spillover effects to the whole Middle East region.
The U.S. has never accepted the illegal occupation of Cyprus or the attempted secession of the occupied area, recognized by no country in the world, except Turkey. America is on record as strongly supporting a negotiated comprehensive settlement, in a bizonal, bicommunal federation, based on U.N. Security Council resolutions. America's close relationship with Turkey provides an opportunity to help. The U.S. administration should use all its influence to encourage Turkey's political and military leadership to act decisively to resolve the Cyprus question and unlock all the benefits that membership in the EU could bring to the Cypriots, to the region and to U.S. vital interests.
For the people of Cyprus, the most joyful gain would be to never have to mark another anniversary of the division of their country. Rather, they would celebrate their homeland's progress, peace and prosperity as part of a united Europe.

Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis is the ambassador of the Republic of Cyprus to the United States of America.

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