UN chief visits Cyprus to boost peace talks February 3, 2010Posted by Yilan in Cyprus, Turkey.
Tags: Ban Ki-moon, Cypriot Foreign Minister Marcos Kyprianou, Dimitris Christofias, Mehmet Ali Talat
NICOSIA, Cyprus — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Cyprus on Sunday in a bid to re-energize slow moving talks aimed at reunifying the ethnically divided island.
Ban’s first-ever visit to Cyprus is seen as a personal show of support for talks between the island’s Greek Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat.
Christofias and Talat have achieved only marginal progress in 17 months of open-ended negotiations. But Ban said he’s pleased that the two leaders have achieved significant progress on the key issue of power-sharing under an envisioned federal model during stepped-up talks this month.
“I’m here to show my personal support to the Cypriot-led talks to reunify the country,” Ban said. “My visit is a reflection of the importance I have attached to the current efforts…to reach a settlement.”
Cyprus was divided into an internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south and a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a brief coup by supporters of union with Greece. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is recognized only by Turkey which maintains 35,000 troops there.
Ban’s trip also aims to dispel widespread public gloom on both sides of the divide that the two leaders can successfully end the long-standing dispute impeding Turkey’s bid to join the European Union and harming EU-NATO cooperation.
“I am under no illusion that the Cyprus problem is easy to solve, or about the difficulties that you face,” Ban said. “At the same time, I’m confident that a solution is possible and within reach.”
Wide differences remain between the sides on issues such as arrangements on property lost during the war, extending Turkey’s military intervention rights and territorial adjustments.
The UN chief lauded the two leaders for their “personal commitment” and “leadership” during the negotiations, but urged both to demonstrate “courage, flexibility and vision” to reach a deal.
“This process belongs to Cyprus,” said Ban. “Your destiny is in your hands. You have taken responsibility for finding a solution.”
Ban said the international community’s expectations for a deal are “very high,” and he underscored the benefits of a settlement to the island, the region and the world.
“Solving this Cyprus problem will give inspiration to all those around the world trying to solve other seemingly intractable conflicts,” the U.N. chief said.