Elders say Cyprus talks the only game in town

13th September 2009, Comments 0 comments

The United Nations is eager to step up the pace for a Cyprus solution, but little visible progress was made during 40 meetings in the first phase of talks.

Nicosia -- Respected global statesmen known as "The Elders" said on Friday the Cyprus talks are the only game in town and that rival leaders have the courage and determination to reunite the island.

The Elders, including former UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, wrapped up a regional tour after holding separate meetings with the leaders of both sides in Cyprus and talks in Ankara and Athens.

"This process is accepted by everybody everywhere as the only game in town. Everyone is hoping it is solved as soon as possible," Brahimi told reporters.

"I think everybody is hoping it will be solved through this process... we are not naive or starry-eyed -- it won't be easy."

Brahimi said the coming months would be crucial to "bringing down the last wall in Europe" as the opportunity to do so would "not last for ever."

Former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Brundtland and the Elders' CEO, Mabel van Oranje, are accompanying Brahimi on the tour.

"We are encouraged and truly inspired by these two courageous leaders who are trying to reunify Cyprus through a fair deal," Brundtland said.

She said it was time for the year-long process to pick up the pace, but argued that the real stumbling block to progress was a lack of trust.

"What struck us most is the lack of contact over many years has fostered suspicion and mistrust to extraordinary levels," she said.

"There is misunderstanding, lack of confidence and fear -- not only on the island between the two communities but between Greek Cypriots and Turkey."

The Elders said that during high-level contacts in Athens and Ankara it was made "very clear" that both countries "strongly support" the negotiations in Cyprus.

Members of the elite Elders group include Desmond Tutu and Jimmy Carter, while Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi are honorary Elders.

The group's second such mission to Cyprus coincided with peace talks entering a critical stage. President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat began the key second phase of talks on Thursday.

Greek Cypriots postponed the scheduled start of the talks the previous week following a row over a pilgrimage to the Turkish-held north of the island.

The United Nations is eager to step up the pace for a Cyprus solution, but little visible progress was made during 40 meetings in the first phase of talks.

The two leaders have now returned to the negotiating table in a bid to bridge differences on power-sharing and governance before touching on the more prickly issues of territory and security.

In 2004, a UN-backed reunification plan was scrapped after being rejected in a referendum by Greek Cypriots but backed by Turkish Cypriots.

Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974 in response to a coup seeking to unite it with Greece, and the island has been divided ever since.

AFP/Expatica

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