President Nicos Anastasiades addressed parliament yesterday (11 February) to try to convince Cypriots that a UN-backed peace deal is possible for the divided island, in a rare move by a Greek Cypriot leader.
He said there were still difficulties in UN-sponsored peace talks with the Turkish Cypriots launched last May but that the overall atmosphere was “positive”.
The Turkish Cypriot side wants to discuss the crunch issue of territorial adjustments last for fear of leaks that could derail the process, Anastasiades revealed.
The president also said he still needed more time to secure a solution to put before the Greek Cypriots to ensure it had no “ambiguities”.
Any peace accord must be ratified by Cypriots at the ballot box in separate referenda.
Turkey has indicated that the referenda could take place as early as in March.
The last time this happened Greek Cypriots rejected a UN blueprint in 2004 that Anastasiades had supported, before he became president.
But he stressed it was now time for both the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities to realise that going down the road of peace was their only option.
“Though the solution of the Cyprus problem interests the international community, the European Union and Turkey for various reasons, those who should be most interested are the Cypriot people,” Anastasiades told parliament.
He said Greek and Turkish Cypriots should consider with “sobriety” what their future would be in a divided country compared to the mutual benefits of a reunited Cyprus.
“No matter what our ideological differences, no matter what our disagreements, what certainly does not find us divided is the common vision of our country’s liberation and reunification,” he said.
Last month, Anastasiades and his Turkish Cypriot counterpart Mustafa Ak?nc? made an unprecedented joint appearance before global business and political leaders in Davos, Switzerland to proclaim their peace building credentials.
For Cyprus talks to move beyond where they have failed in the past, hard decisions must be taken on prickly issues such as territorial adjustments, power sharing and property rights.
The leaders are working on a formula to resolve the issues of property, security guarantees and territorial adjustment that would create a united, federal Cyprus.
Many believe the good chemistry between Anastasiades and Ak?nc? can create a climate of trust in order for an elusive deal to be reached.
The long-stalled UN-brokered peace talks are seen as the last best chance to reunify Cyprus after four decades of division.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops occupied
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 despite repeated efforts under the auspices of the UN to bring the leaders of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities to the negotiating table.
Hopes for reunification were raised in 2002 when then-UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan suggested a two-part federation with a rotating presidency.
In an April 2004 referendum, the Greek Cypriots rejected - and the Turkish Cypriots approved - a UN-sponsored unity plan. The plan's failure disappointed EU officials, who had agreed to allow Cyprus to join the EU that year partly in the hope that doing so would encourage a solution. In May 2004, the Greek Cypriot-controlled Republic of Cyprus became a full member of the EU.
At their December 2004 summit, EU leaders agreed to open accession talks with Turkey on 3 October 2005. One of the conditions specified was for Ankara to extend a 1963 association agreement with the EU's predecessor, the European Economic Community, to the Union's 10 new member states. This group included the Greek Cypriot state, which is not recognised by Turkey.
In July 2005, Turkey signed a protocol extending its customs union to the EU-10 states, but at the same time Ankara issued a declaration saying that its signature did not mean it had recognised the Republic of Cyprus. Turkey also refused to open its ports and airports to Cyprus, as it claims the EU has fallen short of having direct trade with the unrecognised northern part of the island.