Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today that the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities had accepted his offer for an enhanced United Nations mediation role in talks aimed at reunifying the Mediterranean island, adding that he expected both sides to reach convergence on core issues by October.
In remarks to reporters after meeting with Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias and his Turkish Cypriot counterpart, Dervis Eroglu, in Geneva, Mr. Ban said that both leaders had made it clear that they intended to reach a comprehensive solution as soon as possible.
“I stated to Mr. Christofias and Mr. Eroglu that while I agreed that the negotiations must be Cypriot-led and Cypriot-owned, I was prepared to offer an enhanced United Nations involvement, without prejudice to this central principle,” said Mr. Ban. “I am happy to report that both leaders have accepted my offer,” he added.
He said that both sides have been working steadily to take the negotiations forward since he last met them in January, but progress has been far too slow, with some important issues remaining untouched.
“We have identified some of the difficulties that are standing in the way of reaching a comprehensive agreement, and we have discussed the need to significantly intensify the negotiations. I have also raised with both the leaders the importance of looking ahead at the objective rather than focusing on the problem in minute detail,” said the Secretary-General, adding that the meeting had taken place in a positive atmosphere.
He said he was impressed with the commitment of both sides to agree on the details for creating a united Cyprus.
“I have every expectation that by October the leaders will be able to report that they have reached convergence on all core issues, and we will meet that month in New York,” said Mr. Ban.
“This will take the Cyprus negotiations close to their conclusion and would allow me to give a positive report to the Security Council on the matter. It would also pave the way for me to work with the parties towards convening a final international conference,” he added.
The Secretary-General said that both Mr. Christofias and Mr. Eroglu had agreed to begin to build support for a comprehensive agreement, stressing that that they must renew their communities’ hope and enthusiasm for a solution. The two leaders also acknowledged the need to begin to prepare their respective communities for the compromises required for a settlement and the prospect of living together in a united Cyprus, he added.
The UN has been facilitating talks between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leadership with a view to the eventual establishment of a Federal Government with a single international personality, consisting of a Turkish Cypriot Constituent State and a Greek Cypriot Constituent State, each of equal status.
The world body has maintained a peacekeeping force – known by its acronym UNFICYP – on the island since 1964, with a current strength of nearly 1,000 uniformed personnel and 150 international and national civilian staff.