Turkish and Greek Cypriots march for reunification
NICOSIATurkish and Greek Cypriots marched together Dec. 14 to urge their leaders on the island to reach agreement at a make-or-break reunification summit in Switzerland next month.
Around 250 Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots presented a peace declaration to Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akıncı and crossed south to also deliver it to Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, AFP reported.
The protesters urged the two leaders to “move forward without hesitation towards reunification” as the “window of opportunity will not be open forever.”
The march comes at a critical time for the eastern Mediterranean island, with the Cypriot leaders due to engage in U.N.-brokered peace negotiations in Geneva in January.
The marchers representing 95 civil society organizations called on the leaders to intensify their efforts and encouraged Cypriots to embrace reunification.
“Cyprus belongs to its people,” and “Solution now,” they chanted.
“We’re here supporting the process,” The Associated Press quoted Turkish Cypriot Salih Ostoprak, one of the protesters, as saying. “We definitely expect a solution....Peace is for the benefit of Greece, Turkey and for the whole region.”
Emerging from his office to greet the demonstrators, Akıncı said he is hopeful a summit next month in Geneva where the thorniest aspects of the decades-old dispute will be tackled marks “beginning of a new era.”
The demonstrators also marched to the Greek Cypriot presidential palace, where they handed the declaration to Deputy Minister Constantinos Petrides. Anastasiades was in Brussels attending a meeting of European Union leaders.
“Know that I’ll continue my efforts for reunification,” Anastasiades said on his official Twitter account.
Anastasiades and Akıncı have agreed to resume the reunification talks after negotiations broke down in Switzerland last month.
There had been mounting international pressure for the leaders to pick up where they left off in an effort to reach a deal as soon as possible.
The leaders will meet for a final push in Geneva on Jan. 9 and Jan. 11, 2017, having agreed to present maps of their respective proposals for the internal boundaries of a future federation.
And from Jan. 12, a five-party conference on Cyprus is to be convened with the added participation of the guarantor powers of Turkey, Greece and Britain.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops intervened in the north of the island in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece.
Anastasiades and Akıncı have been among the most outspoken proponents of a deal, and any agreement they reach will have to be approved by their respective communities in referendums.