The politics of property in Cyprus: conflicting appeals to ‘bizonality’ and ‘human rights’ by the two Cypriot communities

The politics of property in Cyprus: conflicting appeals to ‘bizonality’ and ‘human rights’ by the two Cypriot communities

What is the solution to conflict over property in Cyprus?

This report compares the official Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot approaches to the conflict over property, as well as the reactions of the two sides to proposals for resolving the issue. The report analyses the two basic parameters for any prospective property settlement, namely, ‘bizonality’(maintaining the division between the two regions) in the case of Turkish Cypriots and ‘respect for human rights’ in the case of Greek Cypriots. The paper argues that despite agreement on these basic principles, a common interpretation of these principles is seriously lacking, an important factor that makes the property issue very difficult to resolve.

The report highlights the following differences:

  • the Greek Cypriots maintain that the property issue is essentially a matter of human rights violation, and therefore can only be resolved by implementing ‘the fundamental principle of respect for human rights’. This is interpreted to mean giving all displaced persons unrestricted rights to repossess and return to their former homes and properties, irrespective of any bizonal arrangements
  • the Turkish Cypriots insist that this contradicts ‘the fundamental principle of bizonality’. While accepting the principle of respect for human rights, they demand restrictions on the exercise of rights to property and return by displaced persons because it is necessary to preserve and protect bizonality. This entails preserving as much as possible the present pattern of settlement which includes a preference for a ‘global exchange and compensation’ formula for settlement of property claims.

The report concludes that the two sides’ views on the property issue diverge primarily because of their incompatible preoccupations with the principles of bizonality and respect for human rights – an incompatibility that itself is rooted in their irreconcilable, indeed mutually exclusive, perspectives on the Cyprus problem. The report argues that the two sides in the conflict need to find a compromise between these two positions which includes a more forward-looking approach to understanding these two divisive principles.

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