By Evie Andreou
Around 700 people from both sides of the divide joined the two leaders, Nicos Anastasiades and Mustafa Akinci, at Famagusta’s newly-renovated Othello Tower for an evening of Cypriot music on Tuesday night.
The concert, ‘Our music under the moonlight’ performed by bi-communal group ‘Kyprogenia’, was the first event organised by the newly founded technical committee on culture, which aims to promote and facilitate events, as part of a series of confidence building measures.
The two leaders were accompanied by their wives, as well as UN Special Adviser Espen Barth Eide and UN Special Representative for Cyprus Lisa Buttenheim.
Also attending was former President George Vassiliou, MPs, diplomats and Famagusta Mayor Alexis Galanos. Vassiliou’s wife Androulla heads up the new cultural committee with Zehra Sonya. They invited the two leaders to attend the committee’s first-ever event and greeted the two leaders when they arrived. Akinci was there to meet Anastasiades when his motorcade arrived.
It appeared from television footage that he was accompanied by a Republic police patrol car and at least half a dozen motorcycle officers.
Akinci said that Cyprus is “our country”, and no matter if someone lives in Limassol or Famagusta Cypriots must create a situation where every part of the island belongs to everyone. “As you will remember on the 8th of June we were together with Mr Anastasiades, my friend Nicos, in Limassol for a theatre play we watched together. Tonight, we are here in Famagusta. So once in the south and now in the north the idea is that Cyprus is our homeland; be it Limassol or be it Famagusta that doesn’t make any difference”.
In his turn, Anastasiades said: “I have to say that I am quite happy because I am visiting part of my country and I am not one of those who are discriminating between north and south. I am one who believes in our common homeland, Cyprus, and this is what we are trying with my friend Mustafa, to reunify the island always on the basis of the principles we have agreed, that is going to be a bizonal, bicommunal federation, as well as based on the protection of human rights, the protection of the four (basic) freedoms, to build up a modern country like all the other member states of the EU. So, I have nothing more to say than that we are both committed to work tirelessly in order to find, the soonest possible, a solution which will give the right to every Cypriot to feel free and to share our treasures, our cultural heritage, which is our own treasure. I wish the best to every Cypriot and I am making a plea to those who might have objections: as my friend Mustafa has said, in unity we can succeed a lot, separating or in separation the only thing we can witness is the bitterness from the past. Let’s see the future.”
Speaking to reporters before the event, Vassiliou said: “We have certainly gone through hard times and great turbulence. Many of our compatriots on both sides were killed, the fate of others still remains unknown while thousands of families were forced to leave their homes and properties. Let us consider the magnitude of the disaster and the horrifying experiences of other European citizens due to conflicts and wars but still decided to leave behind the terrible experiences of the past and to look ahead, cooperate by building a common future of peace and cooperation”.
She said both Greek and Turkish Cypriots should grab the opportunity and work together for a future and especially for the future of younger generations, and urged all Cypriots to support the two leaders.
“They should close their ears to the voices of division, hatred and discord and move on the path of peace, cooperation and progress,” she added.
Sonya said the only reasonable way forward was peace. “The time has come to put an end to the notion of this island being a utopia, and living peacefully together, happy, with prosperity should be a reality,” she added.
Larkos Larkou, composer of Kyprogenia said the music had elements, modern and traditional that showcased the multi-culturalism that characterises Cyprus.
Yiannis Toumazis deputy co-chair of the committee, said ‘Our music under the moonlight’ was the beginning of a series of events that would bring together the two communities. Culture could be the glue that binds in terms of mutual understanding between the two communities.
“It is the human factor, beyond politics that will truly bring the notion of co-existence and synergy,” Toumazis said.
Parallel to the two leaders’ meetings to discuss the settlement, this was their fourth social meeting.
In May they each crossed the Ledra street checkpoint – Anastasiades to the north, Akinci to the south, for a walkabout and coffee in old Nicosia, followed by a night at the theatre in early June in the two leaders’ home town of Limassol.
Earlier in the month, Anastasiades and Akinci, attended an event organised by the two communities’ respective chambers of commerce to share their joint vision for a united Cyprus.
But just like the previous social events attended Anastasiades’ attendance at the concert has drawn fire from the political arena.
House President Yiannakis Omirou said it would send the wrong impression that the holder of the highest office in the land would attend an event under the conditions of military occupation, while the Green Party said that Anastasiades would effectively be taking part in Turkish Cypriot celebrations to mark the July 20, 1974 invasion, which they said go on until the end of August.