Elders in Cyprus peace push

NICOSIA (AFP) – Nobel peace laureates former US President Jimmy Carter and anti-apartheid campaigner Desmond Tutu arrived in Cyprus yesterday to back United Nations-brokered efforts to reunite the Mediterranean island. President Dimitris Christofias, a Greek Cypriot, and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat launched peace talks on September 3, four years after the failure of a 2004 UN peace plan. Carter said the eyes of the world were on Cyprus and expected the two «courageous» leaders to «correct a misunderstanding» that has been a problem ever since he was in the White House. «I think it’s very important for all the people who live here to know that the rest of the world is pulling for you,» said Carter. «We pray and hope that the talks will be successful.» The international community views the fresh intercommunal talks process as the best chance for peace in decades as for the first time two relatively young and moderate leaders are at the helm. Carter, 84, and Tutu, 77, are accompanied by Lakhdar Brahimi, 74, the Algerian former foreign minister who helped broker a 1989 agreement that ended Lebanon’s 15-year civil war. They are to hold separate meetings with Christofias and Talat today, a day before the two Cypriot leaders resume negotiations on power-sharing arrangements in a future government. «We have come to give encouragement to the initiative and the very courageous steps the leaders of the two communities have taken. We think it’s a very exciting time,» Tutu told reporters before the trio met a group of Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot schoolchildren at the UN compound in Nicosia. «We want to be able to tell the people that nowhere in the world do you really have intractable problems. I come from South Africa where they believed the problem of apartheid would be resolved only through violence,» he added. The three are members of the Elders: 12 world-respected elder statesmen with hands-on experience in conflict resolution. The group was formed last year by Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s former president.

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