The parties in Cyprus should engage with the UN Secretary General’s envoy Jane Holl Lute in a creative and constructive manner, recognising that the outcome will be critical in determining the future of the Cyprus negotiations, the UNSG’`s Deputy Special Adviser and Special Representative in Cyprus Elizabeth Spehar said on Tuesday evening.
She spoke just a few days before Lute’s arrival to meet with Cyprus President, Nicos Anastasiades, and Turkish Cypriot leader, Mustafa Akinci.
Speaking during the end of year reception she hosted at the Ledra Palace Hotel in the UN controlled buffer zone in Nicosia, the UN diplomat noted that “the UN believes that the solution to the Cyprus issue within a clear horizon remains possible. We firmly believe that this solution and the future of this island lie in the hands of the Cypriots themselves, with the two leaders bearing the primary responsibility for the negotiations. Of course, other actors, including the Guarantors, will engage and will have their say,” she added.
Addressing Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot politicians, diplomats and others attending the reception, Spehar noted that “while this time last year we were looking back to an eventful 2017, a crucial and historic year in Cyprus negotiations, in 2018 we are looking back on a rather different period, a year in which steps in the Cyprus peace process were few and far between.”
“The two leaders have held only two meetings, although one of them delivered a positive outcome with the agreement reached on the opening of the crossings at Lefka/Aplici and Deryneia/Derinya on 12 November. Meanwhile, progress on other confidence-building measures remains limited at best. While some Technical Committees have continued their important work without interruptions, some have only recently resumed their meetings, while others have yet to meet,” she said.
Noting that in his latest report, following the recent round of consultations with the parties, the Secretary-General concluded that prospects for a comprehensive solution “remain alive”, Spehar said that the Secretary-General outlined that, prior to resuming full-fledged negotiations, the sides should agree on terms of reference that would constitute the consensus starting point for the negotiations.
“In the coming period, Ms. Jane Holl Lute will continue discussions with the parties to this end. She is in fact expected to return to Cyprus later this week. The parties should engage with her in a creative and constructive manner, recognizing that the outcome will be critical in determining the future of the Cyprus negotiations,” she underlined.
She noted that “there is a growing recognition on the island that the process towards a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus issue is approaching a definitive juncture. While the talks have stalled for many months, the world has not stopped around us. Changes are happening, with important implications, on and around the island, in the region and worldwide.”
Spehar stressed that “we should not allow ourselves to be discouraged about the magnitude of the work that lies ahead. It is important to recall that during the last round of negotiations unprecedented progress was achieved by the sides and it will be important to build on it and not lose the valuable gains made.”
The UN diplomat noted that “unfortunately, only very few people are familiar with the achievements of the past round as well as the contours of an agreement that was beginning to emerge last year. Recent polling has demonstrated that a majority of Cypriots on both sides of the island believe that the public should be consulted regarding the talks and that the voices of ordinary Cypriots had not been heard enough during the past rounds of negotiations,” she said.
She noted that “both the Secretary-General and the Security Council have repeatedly called for greater information-sharing and involvement of civil society actors, including women and youth, in the peace process. This could contribute towards mobilizing greater support for the negotiations and increasing the prospects that the eventual outcome enjoys popular support on both sides of the island.”
Spehar stressed that “all Cypriots have a stake in the future of this island and greater engagement across all sectors of society can provide real impetus for the renewal of a successful process. Building lasting peace requires understanding the fundamental concerns of all peoples in a spirit of reconciliation, respect and recognition.”
She underlined that “looking ahead, building a common understanding and vision for the future in Cyprus has perhaps never been more important than today. In this context, it is encouraging that discussion and dialogue both within and between the two communities have intensified over the past months in the public domain on issues central to the peace process. It is through this dialogue that a joint vision can begin to be forged,” Spehar remarked.
Noting that this has been a rather difficult year, Spehar said that there is still no certainty as to where things will be headed as we welcome the New Year. “However, the uncertainty of the present should not be allowed to overshadow the prospects for a unified future. We should not lose hope, nor give in to fatalism. The only light that will lead us forward is unity of purpose – by that I mean the efforts made by the two sides and all Cypriots from across the island to finally put an end to the Cyprus problem,” she stressed.
She expressed hope that Cypriots will use the year’s end to reflect on how they envisage the future of Cyprus as well as their own role in shaping it.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. Repeated rounds of UN-led peace talks have so far failed to yield results. The latest round of negotiations, in July 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana ended inconclusively.
(Cyprus News Agency)