Both Cypriot leaders said on Thursday Cyprus was counting on the support of the international community for technical and financial assistance to help bring about a solution.
President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriots leader Mustafa Akinci made the plea at a joint panel event at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland.
“These are decisive times, for Cyprus, for the wider region… living in the midst of a region of turmoil, we are committed to continue working with resolve to heal what is an open wound at the heart of Europe, so as for Cyprus to be established as a reference point and symbol for co-existence of the whole region. I count on the full support of the international community on reaching this goal and on turning the page of history,” Anastasiades said in his speech.
Akinci said Cyprus entered the EU as a divided island and the Turkish Cypriots “were left out”. “This time the two leaders who belong to the same generation… we are aware this is the last try to reunify our island,” he said, adding that a settlement would will improve relations for all relevant actors, Turkey, Greece and the EU.
Akinci also said that hydrocarbons could act as source of peace and stability rather than conflict and tension and that Cyprus could become a hub for pipelines through Turkey.
“All of this can only be possible if the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots see each other as future partners,” he said. Akinci said the Cypriots were the main actors who could turn this into a reality and pledged to continue working with Anastasiades to pave the way for new opportunities. “Strong support will be needed in terms of technical and financial assistance,” he added.
Anastasiades also said the discovery of hydrocarbons in the region opened up new possibilities for cooperation and synergies and could transform the Eastern Mediterranean into a pillar of stability, security and peace, while being a decisive factor in achieving energy security for the EU.
“I am convinced that energy must not be allowed to be a source of friction, but rather a catalyst for peace, stability and regional integration,” Anastasiades said. “Essentially, it can become a ‘coal and steel’ story for the region.”
He said Europe, and the European project, held many of the answers “to the puzzle that is the solution of the Cyprus Problem”.
“Let us not forget that Cyprus is, and will continue to be a member state of the European Union. We must therefore approach all issues on the negotiating table through the prism of the EU.”
He hailed the enhanced role of the EU in the current round of negotiations and added that a reunited Cyprus needed to be able to “effectively participate and constructively facilitate the EU decision-making, rather than hinder it”.
A lasting solution to the Cyprus problem would also have significant ramifications, for Europe and all interested parties, he said, as it would provide an immediate boost to Greco-Turkish relations, and to EU-Turkey relations and Turkey’s accession negotiations.
Long-standing obstacles in EU-NATO relations would also be lifted.
“Reunited Cyprus can be the most effective and credible link between the EU and the important region of the Eastern Mediterranean,” he added.
“Myself and Mustafa are working tirelessly to reunify our country,” said Anastasiades, “to transform our country from an island divided, to an island that is a common homeland for co-existence, peaceful co-operation and tolerance; in full conformity and respect to the set of rules, values and principles of the EU”.
The negotiations had resulted so far in convergences and common understanding on many issues, though differences remain on several other substantial and core issues, the president said.
“And without intending to create unrealistic expectations, I believe that 2016 could be the year that will end the unacceptable status quo, provided that we continue working with determination… we table constructive proposals on outstanding issues that will correspond to the climate of hope prevailing in the island and will take into account the sensitivities and concerns of both communities… and… Turkey and all other stakeholders and interested parties involved, support constructively the efforts to reach a settlement, not only in theory and rhetoric, but through practical and substantial actions.”