UN chief: Cyprus peace within leaders’ reach

UN chief: Cyprus peace within leaders’ reach

MONT PELERIN, Switzerland
UN chief: Cyprus peace within leaders’ reach A deal to unify Cyprus is within reach, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Nov. 7 as he opened a latest round of negotiations.

“The prospect of a solution in Cyprus is within their reach,” said Ban as he opened a round of talks in a snow-bound hotel overlooking Lake Geneva in Switzerland on Nov. 7. 

“Expectations in both communities are high,” he added. 

The Eastern Mediterranean resort island has been split since 1974, when Turkish troops partially intervened into the north of the island in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece.

The United Nations has launched several failed peace drives over the last four decades, but the latest bid between Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades and his Turkish Cypriot counterpart, Mustafa Akıncı, has been billed as the last best hope for an enduring truce. 

During five days of negotiations at a luxury Swiss resort, the two leaders are set to directly discuss the thorny issue of territorial adjustments for the first time.

Ban applauded “significant progress” during the peace process that began 18 months ago, but cautioned that “sensitive and difficult issues still remain.” 

“The two leaders have reached a critical juncture in their talks. I encourage them to make the most of the moment and the momentum,” he told reporters immediately before talks began.  

The last major peace push collapsed in 2004 when a proposal worked out by then U.N. chief Kofi Annan was accepted by most Turkish Cypriots but resoundingly dismissed by Greek Cypriots in twin referendums.

The rival leaders are trying to agree on the internal boundary dividing two prospective states. The future Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot regions would be largely autonomous, but would exist under a unified federative Cyprus, with one head of state.

Anastasiades last week urged both sides to “seize the opportunity,” calling for “progress on territory which allows us to lead to a final settlement.” 

Akıncı also said the push to solve the crisis cannot continue indefinitely. 

“This is not something that we can keep discussing after 50 years for another 50 years. Everyone, including the U.N., is aware of this,” he said in a speech last week.  

Ban has made clear he wants to see a final and enduring deal reached before he leaves office at the end of the year.