NATO membership for unified Cyprus would benefit island and alliance – Atlantic Council

A guarantee to include a unified Cyprus in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation could “transform Cyprus into an anchor of stability” in the Eastern Mediterranean and provide momentum for resolution negotiations, Atlantic Council executive vice president Damon Wilson wrote.

The island has been divided between a Greek administration and a breakaway Turkish administration since 1974, when Turkey sent an invasion force to Cyprus to counter a Greek-sponsored coup d’etat.

Greece, Turkey and Britain, the three security guarantors named for the island when it gained independence from British rule in 1960, all maintain a military presence on the island. Although all are NATO members, a reunification deal has remained elusive.

“With NATO membership built into any settlement, Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities, along with Athens and Ankara, and in partnership with all of their European partners and NATO allies, might have more confidence in striking a deal,” Wilson said.

A reunified Cyprus in NATO would prove beneficial to members of the alliance in the Eastern Mediterranean, allowing them to monitor the sea for migration and illicit activities as well as for state and non-state threats.

The presence of NATO forces would also provide the assurance of security to the island’s minority Turkish population, while also alleviating concerns held by the Greek Cypriot community, Wilson said.

If reunification negotiations are successful, this could also help tie Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government more firmly to Europe during a period of “complicated relations,” he said.

“Finally, NATO membership for a unified Cyprus would facilitate the investments required in the waters surrounding the island to unlock energy as a source for economic development for Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots alike,” said Wilson.