The unification of Cyprus must be brought about by Cypriots themselves, President Demetris Christofias told the General Assembly yesterday, adding the despite progress in negotiations, serious obstacles remain towards finding a final solution for the Mediterranean island.
Mr. Christofias said that he and the leader of the Turkish Cypriots Mehmet Ali Talat agreed that talks, which started last year under UN auspices, are intended to be “in the hands of the Cypriots without arbitration and artificial timetables.”
The ultimate goal, he told the Assembly’s annual high-level debate at United Nations Headquarters, is “the restoration of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, independence and unity of the Republic of Cyprus, the common homeland of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.”
But in spite of the two communities’ common efforts to this end, “the Turkish Cypriot side, supported by Turkey, continues to present positions and proposals which lead us outside the framework” of UN resolutions on Cyprus on ending the military occupation, illegal possession of property and presence of settlers, Mr. Christofias said.
Accepting such positions, he said, is tantamount to accepting “many of the consequences of the occupation and to violations of international conventions on human rights, basic freedoms and the principles on which federations are built.”
Mr. Christofias voiced hope that the recently-started second round of negotiations will see a reconsideration of Turkish positions.
“The solution must be by the Cypriots, for the Cypriots,” he stated.
It is a paradox, the President said, that Turkey, currently a member of the Security Council, does not recognize Cyprus, which belongs to the UN, the European Union (EU) and international organizations.
“Cyprus has never sought to have hostile relations with its neighbour, Turkey,” he stressed, reiterating its support for Turkey’s accession to the EU. “But it is our responsibility to defend the independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty of our State.”
Mr. Christofias reminded the heads of State and government gathered at the Assembly that “we have all paid a heavy price – human, political and economic – and continue to pay a heavy price. The profits of lasting peace will be beneficial for the people of Cyprus, of Turkey and for the peoples of our region as a whole.”
Addressing the General Assembly later in the day, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that a fair and lasting solution in Cyprus will make a major contribution to the stability of the Eastern Mediterranean zone, and called on all parties to intensify efforts to reach that goal.
“In the meantime, the Turkish Cypriot side is still subjected to unfair measures of isolation,” said Mr. Erdogan, adding that it was unfair to expect the Turkish side to pay the price for a lack of a solution.
“If a solution cannot be found due to Greek Cypriot intransigence, as was the case in 2004, the normalization of the status of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus will become a necessity which can no longer be delayed,” stressed Mr. Erdogan.
Last week, Mr. Christofias and Mr. Talat held talks in Nicosia on the presidency and vice presidency of a bi-communal republic, but did not reach a decision. During that meeting, they decided to accelerate the pace of their sessions, meeting twice a week in two consecutive weeks next month.
Alexander Downer, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, said last week he was cautiously optimistic on the talks to reunify the island, where UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) have been deployed since 1964 to prevent inter-communal fighting, but a lot of work remained.