Cypriot leaders seeking settlement 'as soon as possible'

Cypriot leaders seeking settlement 'as soon as possible'

NICOSIA - Agence France-Presse
Cypriot leaders seeking settlement as soon as possible

Turkish Cypriot leader Derviş Eroğlu (R) and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades (L) shakes hands as Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus, Lisa Buttenheim (C), looks on following their arrival for a meeting in Nicosia, Feb 11. AFP photo

Cypriot leaders re-launched peace talks yesterday after close to a two-year hiatus, vowing to seek agreement on ending the island’s four-decade division “as soon as possible.” 

Turkish Cypriot President Derviş Eroğlu and his Greek Cypriot counterpart, Nicos Anastasiades, met for 90 minutes inside the U.N.-controlled buffer zone that slices through the capital, Nicosia, to herald the restart of talks after a 20-month stalemate. 

“The leaders expressed their determination to resume structured negotiations in a results-oriented manner,” said Lisa Buttenheim, the resident United Nations envoy on the island, reading from a joint statement. 

Flanked by the two leaders, the joint statement Buttenheim read out did not differ significantly from previous proclamations of an aspired peace deal on the Mediterranean island, but served more to reassure the sides of the boundaries in talks.

No backpedalling

Eroğlu said it was pleasing to start negotiations after a long pause, but added that a real solution to the problem could only be achieved through a process that included a tradeoff between two communities. 

Speaking in Ankara, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was also hopeful that the Mediterranean island’s division could be ended. “We are heading toward a new process in Cyprus. God willing, there will be no backpedalling, and we will solve the Cyprus problem,” he said.

For his part, Anastasiades said: “I hope that today will be the beginning of the end to an undesirable and unacceptable situation that has kept the island and our people divided for 40 years.”

Both sides acknowledged the road ahead would be painful but conceded that the status quo was “unacceptable” and that a settlement would have a “positive impact” on the region.

“The leaders will aim to reach a settlement as soon as possible and hold separate simultaneous referenda thereafter,” the statement said. Negotiators are to meet later this week to push the process forward.

The joint declaration was finalized last week after protracted haggling over the text delayed a re-launch of talks originally slated for November 2013. Anastasiades said the communiqué “is not the final solution but the beginning of a painstaking effort to reach desired goals,” adding that he was looking forward to a solution that has “no winners or losers.” 

UN, EU hail declaration

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon welcomed the joint statement by the leaders and urged “fully fledged negotiations for a comprehensive settlement.”

The EU also welcomed the agreement, saying it should help the two sides “swiftly address matters of substance and to achieve rapid results in the negotiations.” 

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman van Rompuy also hailed the restart of talks and said the declaration laid “a solid foundation” for a peace accord.

“The European Union also supports the efforts to reach an agreement between the two parties on a package of confidence-building measures which can help to create momentum toward a settlement to the benefit of Cypriot people. The European Union stands ready to look creatively at how to contribute to this objective in the prospects of a final settlement,” the statement said.