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In 1960 the island of Cyprus achieved its independence from England. By 1963 the Greek Cypriot majority was engaged in the ethnic cleansing of the Turkish Cypriot minority. This situation was reversed in 1974 when 35,000 Turkish troops arrived on the northern part of the island as the aggressors.

The presence of Turkish troops eventually resulted in the de facto partition of the island and creation of the breakaway “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,” recognized by no country in the world other than Turkey.

Notwithstanding UN efforts since 1974 to reestablish a central government and obtain the agreement of both communities to live together peacefully on the island, the conflict remains intractable and ripe for Track III (grassroots) intervention to achieve a reconfiguration.

Historically the respective leaders of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities have consistently advocated separate sets of “political and ethical beliefs and desires – rational and irrational” that are “fundamentally incompatible.” Is it possible for leaders who carry the baggage of their respective predecessors to suddenly change course and ask their followers to throw off their historical shackles in order to join together for peace?

The last best hope for reunification rests in the hands of the people at the grassroots level on both sides. They need to change the game through conflict transformation from the bottom-up.

These are extraordinary times for ordinary people who truly have the opportunity to take charge of their future. The question is whether they will seize the moment before it is too late. Will they continue to be bystanders to history, allowing the spoilers of the peace process to continue to prevail, or will they assert themselves to change its course?

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