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UN Chief Urges Rival Cypriot Leaders to Heed Voices for Peace

  • Lisa Schlein

A U.N. peacekeeper stands guard during a protest calling to the rival leaders of the two communities for peace in the Cyprus island, at Ledras main crossing point inside the U.N buffer zone that divided the Greek and Turkish Cypriots controlled areas, Nicosia, Cyprus, June 30, 2017.

The leader of the United Nations has joined the reconvened Cyprus negotiations to encourage the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders to grasp the opportunity for peace and end a stalemate that has kept their island divided for more than four decades.

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres got off the plane from New York early Friday morning and immediately set to work at the negotiating table.

As cheer leader in chief, Guterres says he is encouraged by the determination and commitment of the participants to find a solution to this thorny problem. He says the conference offers an historic opportunity to reach a comprehensive settlement to the conflict that has divided Cyprus for far too long.

“The road back to Switzerland has not been easy. But, the path to lasting peace never is,” Guterres said. “To get to this point, the leaders have overcome significant challenges and are making unprecedented progress. I salute their determination and common vision, which has led them here.”

FILE - U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres addresses a meeting of the U.N. Security Council at U.N. headquarters in New York City, March 23, 2017.
FILE - U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres addresses a meeting of the U.N. Security Council at U.N. headquarters in New York City, March 23, 2017.

Alpine village hosts talks

Conference participants include the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders, representatives of the three guarantor powers — Greece, Turkey, and Britain, and senior European Union officials. The talks are taking place in the Alpine village of Crans-Montana, chosen for its seclusion and beauty.

Guterres says he firmly believes that through determination and political will, it will be possible to clear the final hurdles. He says the participants have declared their readiness to find a solution.

“They have also demonstrated an awareness of this historic opportunity and the responsibility they share for a successful outcome.” Guterres said. “And, I call on the leaders and the other participants in the conference to heed the call for peace of thousands of Cypriots at rallies on the island this week. The voices in support of a solution are indeed getting louder.”

An abandoned building with a guard post with a U.N. flag on top in the U.N. buffer zone that divides the Greek and Turkish Cypriots controlled areas in central divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus, June 30, 2017.
An abandoned building with a guard post with a U.N. flag on top in the U.N. buffer zone that divides the Greek and Turkish Cypriots controlled areas in central divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus, June 30, 2017.

Turkish troops a sticking point

Guterres notes some sensitive and difficult issues remain to be resolved. Chief among them are guarantees of safety for each of the divided communities.

The major sticking point is the 35,000 Turkish troops stationed in north Cyprus. The Greek community views them as a danger and wants them to leave. On the other hand, the Turkish Cypriots see the troops as a guarantee of their safety.

Guterres says compromises will have to be worked out. But, he adds the security of one community cannot come at the expense of the other.

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