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Greek, Turkish Cypriot Leaders Meet to Try to Re-Unite Divided Island

  • Lisa Schlein

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (C) pose for photographers with Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci (L) and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades during the Cyprus reunification talks in the Swiss mountain resort of Mont Pelerin, Switzerland, Nov. 7, 2016.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (C) pose for photographers with Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci (L) and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades during the Cyprus reunification talks in the Swiss mountain resort of Mont Pelerin, Switzerland, Nov. 7, 2016.

Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders are holding U.N.-mediated talks in an effort to end the four-decade-long stalemate that has kept their island divided. U.N. Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon opened the week long talks with words of encouragement for the task ahead.

During the coming week, the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders will be sequestered in a luxurious spa resort surrounded by vineyards, overlooking Lake Geneva, the Alps, and Rhone Valley.

It remains to be seen whether these beautiful surroundings will be conducive to reaching an agreement to reunite their island, which has been divided since 1974. That was when Turkey invaded Cyprus, displacing tens of thousands of people and splitting the island between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot populations.

FILE - A man holds an icon against the backdrop of crumbling buildings destroyed in Cyprus's 1974 war during a celebration for Orthodox Epiphany for the first time in decades at Famagusta, Cyprus, Jan. 6, 2016.

FILE - A man holds an icon against the backdrop of crumbling buildings destroyed in Cyprus's 1974 war during a celebration for Orthodox Epiphany for the first time in decades at Famagusta, Cyprus, Jan. 6, 2016.

Ban Ki-moon is leaving his post as U.N. secretary-general at the end of the year. He makes no secret of his desire that a settlement be reached on his watch. In opening the meeting, he said he is sure the two Cypriot leaders would do their utmost to reach this goal.

Acting as cheerleader-in-chief, Ban encouraged the leaders to make the most of the significant progress made during the past 18 months of negotiations.

FILE - Greek Cypriot leader and Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades (L) shake hands with Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci (R), as UN envoy Espen Barth Eide looks on, in the buffer zone of Nicosia airport, Cyprus, Sept. 14, 2016.

FILE - Greek Cypriot leader and Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades (L) shake hands with Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci (R), as UN envoy Espen Barth Eide looks on, in the buffer zone of Nicosia airport, Cyprus, Sept. 14, 2016.

“I commend the leaders for their vision, courage, and leadership for advancing the talks further than ever before," he said. "The prospect of a solution in Cyprus is within their reach. Expectations in both communities are high... I encourage them to make the most of the moment and momentum. It will be crucial as they tackle the outstanding issues.”

It is those outstanding issues that have been bedeviling efforts to reunify this Mediterranean island for more than 40 years. The most complex and divisive issues are territorial adjustments and compensation for people who have lost property.

Ban Ki-moon says achieving a peace accord on Cyprus would give tremendous hope to people around the world that long-standing conflicts can be resolved peacefully through negotiations.

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