Cyprus and COVID-19: Bicommunal Cooperation and Challenges

Event Details

When: May 14, 2020 • 11:00 am – 12:00 pm EDT

Where: Online Only

Around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has added a new dimension to existing and unresolved conflicts, while simultaneously opening the door to increased cooperation and coordination.

For Cyprus, a country that has been divided between north and south for nearly five decades, coronavirus poses a unique challenge and a potential opportunity. The closure of border-crossings between the north and south of the island poses a troubling precedent, just as social distancing measures force all Cypriots into a different form of isolation. While some worry that divisions may further crystallize, others are calling for both sides of the island to work together to overcome the public health crisis. As COVID-19 exposes the fragility of normalcy on the island, the “frozen” nature of the Cyprus Conflict takes on new meanings.

Join us for a discussion with Mete Hatay from the PRIO Cyprus Centre, and Andromachi Sophocleous and Kemal Baykallı from UniteCyprusNow as we explore the ways Cyprus is dealing with the pandemic, creating or limiting bicommunal cooperation, and working towards a better future.


The so-called Cyprus problem is both profoundly international and intrinsically local. As exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the island nation is more vulnerable to global crises due to the unresolved nature of its conflict. Cooperation and coordination between the north and south of the island has remained elusive, in large part due to the lack of strong public backing of cooperative mechanisms and an overall unwillingness to engage. As border-crossings closed, the relative sense of stability with regards to freedom of movement and inter-communal connection was flipped on its head. While it is necessary for the international community to maintain its confidence in the possibility of a resolution to Cyprus’s long-term frozen conflict, the solution to the Cyprus problem must ultimately come from and answer to Cypriots themselves.


Mete Hatay is a Senior Research Consultant at the PRIO Cyprus Centre. Hatay has been a political analyst and freelance writer since 1985, primarily researching and writing on the Cyprus conflict, Cypriot cultural history, immigration, Islam, and ethnic and religious minorities in Cyprus. Before joining the PRIO Cyprus Centre, he worked as co-director of a consultancy firm that provided media monitoring, social and commercial research, and public relations and communication strategy services for international organisations, including the EC Representation in Cyprus. He has taught at Near East University and Cyprus International University and served as a board member of the Turkish Cypriot Education Foundation. He is currently serving as a board member of the Turkish Cypriot Human Rights Foundation and a member of the editorial board of The Cyprus Review.

Andromachi Sophocleous is a political theory graduate and political analyst. Besides being one of the founders of UniteCyprusNow, she was a founding member and project coordinator for “Cypriot Puzzle,” a multi-communal grass-roots organisation that sought to generate discussion and critical thinking among Cypriots about the country’s complex political problems. She is currently self-employed, providing political insights to international clients. Her current fields of expertise include the Cypriot political sphere, the Cyprus problem, and natural gas development in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Kemal Baykallı is a consultant/project manager, working mainly for EU-funded projects in the fields of business development and civil society. He has managed projects for the UNDP and USAID, and also worked for the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce for 9 years as Deputy Secretary General, where he oversaw the organisation’s external relations, communications, EU affairs, and bicommunal projects. He is one of the founding members of UniteCyprusNow and is currently working for the Cyprus Peacemaking Initiative, which initiated the Island Talks, a trilingual podcast station aired across Cyprus.