Stars beginning to align on Cyprus unification: UK

Stars beginning to align on Cyprus unification: UK

Stars beginning to align on Cyprus unification: UK

Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı (R) shakes hands with British Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond as they meet in Nicosia on Nov. 19, 2015. AA Photo

Now is the right time for Greek and Turkish Cypriots to do a deal to reunify their partitioned island, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said Nov. 19 after meeting with the heads of the two communities. 

“The stars are beginning to align, but of course, there are some very challenging issues,” Hammond was quoted as saying by Reuters after talks in Nicosia with the leaders of both communities. 

“There are lots of reasons why now is the right time to do this deal,” Hammond said. 

He added that the foreign ministers of China, Russia and the United States would also visit the island to hold talks with both leaders in an effort to boost the momentum, Turkey’s Cihan News Agency reported Hammond as saying after his meeting with Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı on Nov. 19. 

Hammond said there had been progress in the peace talks in Cyprus due to the active role the two leaders have put forth, adding that there were still topics that had yet to be resolved.

Hammond’s visit comes two days after German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited the island and held talks with the Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders. 

Turkish Cypriot Foreign Minister Emine Çolak told Reuters a day before that Cyprus was closer than ever to ending a four-decade partition and that its Turkish and Greek sides could agree to the text of a deal by May 2016 followed by a referendum. 

“We are cautiously optimistic. We think we are closer than we have ever been before,” Çolak said. “We don’t think the Cyprus problem has got easy; it hasn’t, but we think we have a window of opportunity. It is possible and it is desirable to get to at least the major part of the negotiations and the agreed text by May 2016.”

Çolak also had said it would be “a good thing” to postpone Greek Cypriot elections planned for May 2016 to ease the negotiating process. 

Akıncı and Greek Cypriot President Nikos Anastasiades issued a joint statement on Nov. 18, in which they condemned “in the strongest terms” the attacks by Greek nationalists on Turkish Cypriots in Nicosia on Nov. 16. 

“The leaders stand together against racism and hatred, whatever the source,” read a part of the statement. “They jointly affirm that such deplorable acts will be thoroughly investigated and will not go unpunished.”