Kerry says peace ‘within reach’ on Cyprus

Kerry says peace ‘within reach’ on Cyprus

Kerry says peace ‘within reach’ on Cyprus

AFP photo

Peace is within reach in Cyprus, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has said, a day before the two Cypriot leaders met on Dec. 4 as part of the peace talks. 

“In recent months, it has become clear that the ground really is shifting and tangible progress is being made,” Kerry said Dec. 3 after separate meetings with Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı, according to Reuters. The three dined together afterwards. 

“I am more convinced than ever that a resolution to the long-standing division of Cyprus is within reach,” Kerry added. 

Kerry’s visit came after the special adviser of the U.N. Secretary-General on Cyprus, Espen Barth Eide, last week announced “further progress” in talks. Hopes for a peace deal have risen after leaders on both sides resumed negotiations in May.

A day after Kerry visited the island, Akıncı and Anastasiades came together in Nicosia to make further progress in the peace talks, after having met six times in November to speed up a solution to the 40-year-old separation. The two leaders are scheduled to meet once again on Dec. 15, state-run Anadolu Agency reported. 

“A united Cyprus will stand as a beacon of hope in a tumultuous part of the world,” Kerry said, alluding to Syria’s civil war that has sent millions of refugees streaming into Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon and now into Europe.

Kerry is the latest foreign official to voice optimism that a deal may finally be at hand to reunite the east Mediterranean island, divided since 1974. 

Popular Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders want a settlement, Greece and Turkey have other problems and the discovery of offshore gas could cushion the cost. 

Akıncı praises Kerry’s visit

In a separate press conference, Akıncı expressed his pleasure at Kerry’s meeting. 

“The U.S. reaffirmed its will and determination [to find] a solution in Cyprus and its desire to help us [during the negotiation process],” he said.

During his speech, Akıncı also refuted reports that the U.S. had lifted an embargo on exporting weapons to the Greek Cypriot administration.

“We’ve discussed the topic [with Kerry] this evening as well. Such a decision is out of the question,” he said, adding: “It is clear that it will not be helpful to the [negotiation] process. So, we believe that such a development will not happen.”

The island’s Greek and Turkish communities have lived apart since Turkey invaded the north in 1974 after a Greek-inspired coup aimed at uniting Cyprus with Greece. 

One of the world’s oldest peacekeeping forces monitors a 180-kilometer ceasefire line that slices across the island and bisects the capital, Nicosia. 

Cyprus joined the European Union in 2004 but an attempt to use its accession as a lever for reunification failed when Greek Cypriots rejected a U.N. peace plan in a referendum.