After years of quarreling, the Greek and Turkish Cypriots have a notable opportunity to settle their dispute. Their leaders are meeting this week in a rare ``summit'' in the office of UN Secretary-General Javier P'erez de Cu'ellar. The last meeting between the Greek Cypriots' Spyros Kyprianou and the Turkish Cypriots' Rauf Denktash was in 1979.
The current meeting is taking place thanks largely to what diplomats here describe as the Secretary-General's quiet, persistent, and imaginative mediation efforts.
The path to the summit was paved by a series of meetings at the UN last fall during which P'erez de Cu'ellar shuttled from one room to another, gradually bringing the positions of Denktash and Kyprianou closer together.
``Greek-Turkish Cypriot relations have gone through a series of cycles, with alternating phases of tension and of conciliation,'' says one well-informed source here. ``When the Turkish Cypriots proclaimed their autonomous republic, which was condemned by the Security Council, relations between the two communities reached their lowest point. Since then, allied pressure exerted on Greece and Turkey gradually led the two Cypriot sides to cautiously move closer to one another.
``The NATO allies could not allow their southern flank to be breached; and in recent months the Americans have been urging their Turkish friends, and the French their Greek friends, to show flexibility.''
At the same time, says a senior European diplomat, ``The Turkish and Greek Cypriot communities seemed to have realized that this was their last chance to settle their dispute and to save their island from being permanently split and from coming under Greek and Turkish mainland domination.''
The meeting which opened Thursday is expected to lead to an agreement in principle along the following broad lines:
Cyprus would become a federal republic with one president and one vice-president.
The Turkish Cypriot Autonomous Republic would be abolished.
Two legislative bodies would be created. In the assembly the Greeks would have 70 percent and the Turks 30 percent of the seats. In the Senate the seats would be split on a 50-50 basis.
The Turkish Cypriots would return 8 percent of the Cypriot territory which they now occupy to the Greek Cypriots and remain with roughly 29 percent of the island's territory.
Still to be discussed and determined at the Kyprianou-Denktash meetings are: a calendar for the withdrawal of Turkish troops from Cyprus; the number of Greek refugees who would be allowed to resettle in their home villages, which are now under Turkish control; how the power of veto, at the executive and legislative level, would work so as to avoid the tyranny of the majority and the paralysis of government by a minority.