The Cyprus issue was one of the topics on the table at a meeting between United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Athens on Saturday.
“The Cyprus problem one of illegal occupation, which has been going on for longer than my age,” Tsipras was reported as saying. “We have to solve the problem with a fair solution. The role of the UN is important in this direction,” he added.
Tsipras said the ongoing talks for a settlement of the Cyprus problem are at a “critical point”, and noted that a just and viable solution can be reached only on the basis of the UN Security Council resolutions and the status of Cyprus a European Union member state.
This is the only solution that will make the people of Cyprus, both Greek and Turkish Cypriots, feel secure, a solution without occupation troops and outdated institutions, such as guarantees, according to Tsipras.
The Greek Premier said he and Ban discussed the great importance of the policy of bilateral and tripartite cooperation of Greece and Cyprus with countries in the Eastern Mediterranean in safeguarding peace and stability in the region.
Both men, he added, agreed that respect for international law and the principle of good neighbourliness are the only sound basis for promoting these relations.
The UN Secretary General said that he and Tsipras discussed the progress made in the talks between the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots, which are facilitated by his special adviser Espen Barth Eide.
Ban added he welcomes the commitment of the two leaders in their joint statement last month, in which they pledged to work for a solution within the year, and thanked Greece for its high-level support to the talks.
The UN Secretary General called for countries to do more to help cope with Europe’s migrant crisis, saying Greece could not manage on its own.
Speaking before heading to the Greek island of Lesbos, the gateway into Europe for nearly a million people last year, Ban said Greece had shown “remarkable solidarity and compassion” in dealing with the hundreds of thousands of migrants fleeing war, despite its economic hardship.
“Greece should not be left alone to address this challenge on its own,” Ban said.
“We must work together to protect people and address the causes of displacement. I continue to call for a greatest sharing of this responsibility across Europe and indeed across the world.”
About one million people crossed the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greek islands last year in small and often overcrowded inflatable boats. Hundreds drowned trying to make the crossing.
The migratory shift from Turkey to Greece has slowed to a trickle since March, when the European Union and Turkey reached an agreement for Ankara to seal the route in return for financial and political rewards.
The accord obliges Greece to return to Turkey those migrants who either do not apply for asylum or have their claims rejected.
Officials say about 8,400 migrants are currently on Greek islands, nearly all of whom have expressed interest in applying for asylum, overwhelming the system.
Additionally, there are an estimated 48,000 on the Greek mainland, stuck there after a wave of border shutdowns throughout the Balkans.
Tsipras said Greece had taken a big burden on its shoulders and asked for solidarity so that his country could deal with the situation.
In a symbolic move, Tsipras offered Ban a life jacket, one of thousands of items Greek authorities have recovered from the shores of Greek islands since last year. He hoped the EU-Turkey deal was respected so that refugees and migrants would not need this life-saving tool in the future.