Ethno-nationalism, sovereignty and negotiating positions in the Cyprus conflict: Obstacles to a settlement

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For more than a century the Cyprus question has taken varying forms. Today it is linked with a core issue of debate and conflict within the international system between the norms of sovereignty and the rights of ethnic minorities and communities. This issue has also played, and is currently playing a significant role in several other intractable conflicts in the region, notably between Israel and the Palestinians, with the Kurdish populations particularly in Turkey and Iraq, and currently in Kosovo with the Albanian population. Since the Minorities' Treaties under the League of Nations the international community has slowly been developing a set of norms to deal with such issues but, as with the Cyprus question, progress has been very slow. These issues are related to the norms of sovereignty, and the continuing avoidance of partition. States are still sacrosanct and as the international community nominally supports the integrity of the Republic of Cyprus; any modification of the status quo must come about through the agreement of the two communities themselves. As the international community is undecided on the rights of secessionist ethnic communities and minorities in relation to the principles of self-determination, in a practical sense the two communities in Cyprus have little incentive to settle; the Greek Cypriot side can merely appeal to their control of the institutions of state, while the Turkish Cypriot side can wait for the international community to take a clearer stand which might be in their favour.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)42-63
Number of pages22
JournalMiddle Eastern Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1999


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