By Zaman

The Greek Cypriot administration has eased the requirements for foreigners to obtain citizenship in the Greek part of the island in a move to increase the population ahead of the conclusion of peace talks over the ethnically divided island of Cyprus.

According to recent data from EU statistics agency Eurostat, Greek Cyprus ranked third among EU member countries when it comes to the number of resident permits issued for foreigners. A total of 13,841 foreigners received residency on the Greek side of the island in 2014, thanks to an easing of regulations. Foreigners who have resided for seven years in Greek Cyprus can apply for citizenship.

In contrast, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) has introduced several measures to make it more difficult for people obtain citizenship. According to a legal change made by the KKTC in May, the length of time before foreigners married to a KKTC citizen can obtain citizenship increased to three years from what was previously one. In addition, foreigners need to have resided for at least 15 years in the KKTC to qualify for citizenship. This figure is six years on average among EU member states.

In the meantime, KKTC President Mustafa Akıncı and Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades have agreed to “significantly intensify” the pace of peace negotiations on the island in November.

At a meeting held on Oct. 13, Akıncı and Anastasiades said they recognize that there is still “serious work” to be done before reaching a comprehensive peace deal in Cyprus.

Speaking to journalists in Lefkoşa after the meeting, Akıncı said that it was not an easy thing to come to an agreement on certain issues but that both sides are willing to reach a comprehensive solution.

The Cyprus peace talks resumed in May after a few months’ pause due to disagreements over Cyprus’s offshore gas deposits.

Cyprus was divided in 1974 when Turkey sent troops to the island after a coup by supporters of a union with Greece. The Greek Cypriot state in the south of the island is internationally recognized as representing the whole island, while only Turkey recognizes the KKTC in the north.