By Elias Hazou
MOMENTUM towards ending Cyprus’ decades-long partition is building, and now is the right time for Greek and Turkish Cypriots to do a deal, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said on Thursday.
The whole international community wants a settlement of the Cyprus problem, Hammond said, expressing optimism over the ongoing reunification talks despite the challenges that lie ahead.
“The stars are beginning to align, but of course there are some very challenging issues,” he said after talks with the leaders of both communities.
“There are lots of reasons why now is the right time to do this deal,” he noted.
Despite the sense of momentum towards a solution and both leaders’ commitment, there were “some big challenges left to resolve.”
Britain’s top diplomat said the international community, including the European Union and Britain, stand ready to provide financial support to an agreement if required.
“I think that we also have to provide some technical support. Let’s have the best brains from all around the world thinking about how to deal with this complex inter-linked set of problems and how to raise the necessary finance to underpin that solution,” he added.
Later on Thursday, Hammond met with his Cypriot counterpart Ioannis Kasoulides. The two had a tete-a-tete meeting, followed by a working lunch.
Speaking at a joint news conference later, Kasoulides said Hammond’s second visit to Cyprus in a few months time “is a demonstration of the keen interest of the United Kingdom in following the developments of the negotiations for reaching a settlement of the problem of Cyprus.”
Asked if he and Kasoulides discussed the issue of guarantor powers, and the UK’s position on this, Hammond said that they discussed it briefly, noting that this is one of the difficult issues to be addressed.
“I’ve discussed it both with President Anastasiades this morning and also with [Turkish Cypriot leader] Mr Akinci. The UK’s position is clear: If the two communities come to agreement about how they want to move forward, the UK will consider any proposal. We have no preconceptions about how this should be done.
“We have no interest of our own in this process. Our only interest is to try to facilitate a workable agreement between the two communities,” noted Hammond.
Responding to a question by a British journalist, about the refugees who recently came ashore at the Royal Air Force base in Akrotiri, Hammond said that the Cypriot government made it clear it was willing in principle to take all of these migrants, once it is clarified that they are eligible as asylum seekers and that do not have criminal records.
Also on Thursday, Hammond visited the anthropological laboratory of the Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus, noting the “very important work” that is being carried out.
The British Foreign Secretary was also set to meet with the UN Secretary General’s Special Adviser Espen Barth Eide.