This is one of the abiding images of Cyprus. It is the representation of the flag of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (recognised only by Turkey). It is etched into the Pentactylos mountain range in the occupied area across the Green Line that divides the two communities on this beautiful island. Inhabitants of Nicosia come face to face with this image daily as it is visible from almost every part of the city. It is, perhaps, meant to be a provocative reminder to those on the south side of the line of everything they have lost as a result of the Turkish invasion of 1974. One hesitates to ask older residents what they feel about this for fear of stoking up hurt or anger. But maybe that’s my issue because although I focus on this image, Cypriots seem to ignore it.
This is mostly true when it comes to the youth of the island. I visited Starbuck’s in Nicosia’s shiny sleek shopping mall to get a picture of how young people in Cyprus were faring. The image of the flag is clearly visible from this packed out coffee house. Not one person, however was staring out of the window looking ruefully at Pentactylos’ mountains. They were doing what young people everywhere do – wearing the latest fashions, everyone talking loudly at once, and everyone ‘checking’ everyone else out! These are the best educated Europeans with more masters degrees than anywhere else in Europe.They are English speaking and business friendly and they will help Cyprus to lure much needed foreign direct investment.
Cyprus has recently discovered oil and gas off its coast and looks to have found a partial way out of its economic difficulties. The careful development and exploitation of these resources will deliver much needed revenue to this great island. But I think their greatest asset will turn out to be those forward looking, well educated and optimistic young people I witnessed going about their business in Starbuck’s last weekend - young people who are leaving the past in the past.