Optimism about the reunification of Cyprus reached a high Thursday as the two leaders of the ethnically split island pledged their commitment to reach a settlement, all with a symbolic handshake, at Davos in the Swiss Alps, the setting of the ongoing World Economic Forum.
Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci had a working lunch with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who urged the pair to seize the positive momentum in ongoing talks, acknowledging however that “a number of sensitive and difficult issues” remain.
Territorial matters as well as power-sharing and property rights are seen as the largest stumbling blocks to a peace deal.
Earlier, Anastasiades told the forum that “2016 could be the year that we end the unacceptable status quo.”
“Living in the midst of a region in turmoil, we are committed to continue working with resolve to heal what is an open wound at the heart of Europe,” he said, appealing to outsiders for economic backing.
“We do hope that we should have the support of the international community at large, particularly as regards substantially contributing to meet the financial aspects of the solution,” he said.
Emphasizing that Anastasiades and himself embody the last generation with living memories of a united Cyprus, Akinci described the ongoing process as “the last chance to reunite the island.”
The Turkish-Cypriot leader said that energy deposits discovered off the island were a catalyst for a solution.
“With this solution, newly found hydrocarbon resources in the Eastern Mediterranean will act as a source of peace cooperation rather than conflict and tension,” he said.
In earlier comments to the media, Akinci said that potential normalization of Turkish-Israeli ties would make a Cyprus peace deal an imperative.
“It is important to unify Cypriot and Israeli reserves and transfer these via Cyprus to Turkey and from there to Europe,” he said.