DISY chief calls for peace

Istanbul – Greek-Cypriot opposition leader Nikos Anastassiades called for reconciliation between archrivals Turkey and Cyprus in Istanbul yesterday as he began an unprecedented visit to the country by a Greek-Cypriot political leader. Anastassiades, head of the Democratic Rally Party (DISY), the second-largest in the Republic of Cyprus, voiced support for Turkey’s bid to join the European Union, in which the three-decade division of Cyprus remains a major stumbling block. «Europe has been successful in bridging differences and in healing the wounds of the past… Cyprus cannot be an exception. It is high time to close this traumatic and painful chapter once and for all,» he told a conference at an Istanbul think tank. «The Cyprus issue is loaded with much pain and distrust, with acts of violence and hate. But the past belongs to the historians… I’m truly confident that we can secure our future together through a new win-win situation concept,» he said. As a country set to start accession talks with the EU in October, Turkey is now under pressure to recognize the Greek-Cypriot government, which joined the bloc last year. Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, however, said yesterday that Ankara would not take such a step until a lasting settlement is found to the division of the island. «But we are ready to talk to the Greek Cypriots, we will not shy away from dialogue if this can contribute to a settlement,» Gul told reporters in Ankara. Anastassiades and his delegation were visiting Turkey on the invitation of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The right-wing DISY was the only Greek-Cypriot political force to rally behind a UN peace plan to reunify Cyprus last year, which also had the robust backing of Ankara. The settlement scheme failed when the Greek Cypriots rejected it with an overwhelming majority in an April 24 referendum, although the Turkish Cypriots gave it strong support. The outcome ensured that only the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot sector joined the EU on May 1, while the breakaway Turkish Cypriots were left out in the cold. Anastassiades is scheduled to meet with Gul and other AKP leaders in Ankara today and with Erdogan in Istanbul on Saturday. He will also see Greek Orthodox Patriarch Vartholomaios, the Istanbul-based spiritual leader of 250 million Orthodox worshippers in the world, on Sunday. The visit has attracted criticism in Greek Cyprus, with a large section of the local media opting not to travel with the DISY delegation to give it wider coverage.

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