Pope Francis and President Nikos Anastasiadis discuss Cyprus’s future and Islamic-Christian coexistence
Cyprus’s Greek and Turkish communities have been seeking an agreement for some time, free from foreign interference, especially Turkey’s. Ankara has 35,000 soldiers and 200,000 Anatolian settlers on the island aimed at altering the island’s demography and culture. Turkish Cypriot president Mustafa Akinci falls foul of Erdoğan.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis met in audience with the President of Cyprus Nikos Anastasiadis this morning. The meeting took place on the eve of the resumption of talks between the island’s Greek and the Turkish communities, which have been geographically divided since the Turkish invasion of 1974.
The latter took place after a failed coup organised by Greece, then under a military dictatorship, against Cyprus’s democratically elected president, Archbishop Makarios, which gave Turkey the excuse to intervene in order to re-establish the status quo ante.
In reality, for the past 45 years, Turkey has permanently stationed 35,000 troops, whilst the invasion has divided the island, with 200,000 Turkish settlers coming from mainland Anatolia to live in northern Cyprus in order to alter the island’s demographic and cultural status.
Before the invasion, Cyprus had a population of 750,000, 130,000 or 18 per cent ethnic Turks. Currently the southern part of the island is home to 650,000 Greek Cypriots and various other ethnic groups against 120,000 Turkish Cypriots and 200,000 Anatolian settlers in the north.
Various attempts to find a peaceful coexistence have failed so far, especially because of Turkey’s insistence on keeping its 35,000 soldiers on the territory of a member state of the European Union.
Today's meeting with the pontiff takes on special importance in light of Cyprus’s geopolitical importance in the Middle East to the so-called great powers.
The Cypriot president told the Holy Father that both communities want to reach an agreement that would guarantee peaceful coexistence, free from foreign interference, especially Turkey’s. Thus, Cyprus could constitute an example of Christian-Islamic coexistence in the troubled Middle East.
A few days ago, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that the President of Turkish Cyprus Mustafa Akinci was “politically finished” because he dared to describe the Turkish army’s action in Syria an “invasion” and not “an act of peace”.
President Anastasiadis invited Pope Francis to visit Cyprus. The pontiff responded by saying that their next meeting will take place right on the island.