NEWS

UN chief seeks ‘courage’ on Cyprus

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday called on both communities of Cyprus to show the necessary «courage» to reunify the divided island following talks with political leaders in Nicosia. «For decades, the world has heard about a Cyprus problem. Now is the time for a Cyprus solution,» Ban said in a written statement after meeting with Cyprus President Dimitris Christofias and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat. The UN chief said both leaders had assured him of «their shared commitment to a comprehensive solution as early as possible» and said he was «convinced that these two leaders can achieve a mutually beneficial solution.» But he stressed that the two sides would need to show «courage and determination.» Christofias highlighted the «need for more points of convergence in the various chapters» of the talks, noting that «certain significant chapters have not even been opened yet.» As for Talat, he called for a «new partnership» on Cyprus to ensure that the island’s turbulent history is not repeated. Ban said his visit to the island, the first by a UN chief in eight years, was intended to highlight the significance of the peace process but stressed that his role, and that of his special envoy on the island Alexander Downer, was one of mediator and that a settlement remained «the responsibility of Cyprus.» «Your destiny is in your hands; you are the ones driving the process. Let’s not underestimate the benefits of a solution,» the UN chief said. Cypriot politicians criticized the decision by the UN chief to visit Turkish-Cypriot leader Talat at the latter’s headquarters in Turkish-occupied Nicosia, where hundreds of demonstrators turned out to express their readiness for a settlement. Turkish Cypriots had backed a blueprint for the island’s reunification put forward by Ban’s predecessor, Kofi Annan, in 2004 but the plan was rejected by Greek Cypriots.