UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pledged yesterday (25 September) to play a greater role in stepped-up efforts to reach a deal on settling the decades-old conflict in Cyprus before the end of the year.
Following a meeting with the leaders of the divided island, Ban praised the two men for their decision to intensify negotiations with a view to reaching a deal on reunifying the island in 2016.
“The leaders asked me to step up my personal engagement in the process,” Ban told reporters following a trilateral meeting.
“I stand ready to support them in whatever they may require, including on the international dimensions of the issue.”
The division between Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities is one of the world’s thorniest and longest-running diplomatic problems, and has defied repeated efforts at a solution.
The United Nations relaunched talks in May 2015 in what is seen as the best chance yet to end four decades of division.
The Mediterranean island has been divided since an Athens-inspired coup in 1974 triggered a Turkish invasion of the north.
The division has been a major hurdle in Turkey’s aspirations to join the European Union.
“The period ahead will be crucial for Cyprus,” Ban said following his meeting with Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı and Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades.
“Time is of the essence. The United Nations and I will do our utmost to promote a successful outcome,” he pledged.
Ban has said he would like to see a final settlement of the Cyprus conflict before he steps down as UN chief on 31 December.
A roadmap to a deal
After meeting with Ban on Saturday, Akıncı said he expected a “road map” to be agreed during the trilateral meeting to turn recent progress in the talks into a “real success story.”
Anastasiades told the UN General Assembly on Thursday that a settlement to the decades-old conflict would provide a “beacon of hope” that even the world’s most intractable problems can be resolved.
Negotiations have centered on creating a new bi-communal Cyprus federation, but there have been differences over the issues of property and territorial adjustments that could see a number of Turkish Cypriots displaced from their homes.
The issues of how many people will be allowed to return to their former homes and how many will receive financial compensation are also huge stumbling blocks.
The costs of compensation are estimated to run to billions of euros and the financial aspects of the agreement are said to be among the issues on the table during the talks in New York.
Any agreement the two leaders reach will have to be put to simultaneous referendums on either side of the island.
A previous peace deal brokered by then-UN chief Kofi Annan in 2004 was backed by a significant majority of Turkish Cypriot voters but overwhelmingly rejected by their Greek Cypriot counterparts.