President Nicos Anastasiades said on Friday that the 56th anniversary of the island’s independence on October 1, presented an opportunity to look back and see that many times throughout the years, and particularly before 1974, instead of building bridges, the island’s two communities hid behind slogans and, sometimes, confrontational goals.
In a televised address, referring to the post-1974 situation on the island, Anastasiades said it was a state of affairs that “we must overturn, after finding the courage to acknowledge either side’s concerns”.
“At the same time, I want to be clear: while I acknowledge that our fellow Turkish Cypriots have reasons to distrust us, I am not – and I want to stress this – willing to satisfy unjustified concerns and sideline justified and legitimate concerns of Greek Cypriots, whom I represent at the negotiations,” he said.
Specifically, he referred to the “insistence on the military presence of third countries, or even guarantor or intervention rights”, which he described as “excessive and unjustified”.
“No modern state in the European Union, or elsewhere, is in need of third-party guarantees,” he said.
Pledging to make good on his promise to brief the National Council, as well as the general public, of the latest developments upon his return from New York, he outlined the key convergences agreed thus far.
These include, he said, agreement that the reunified Cyprus will have a single legal personality, sovereignty, and citizenship, all citizens will enjoy the rights of movement, property ownership, residence, and work, across Cyprus, full recognition of individual rights to property ownership, agreed population ratios, and full implementation of the acquis communautaire.
“Despite these, and acknowledging the substantial progress made, I must note that differences remain on a number of issues on governance, European Union, and the economy, the most important of which touch on the core of the issues of properties, territory, security and guarantees, which will tilt the scales and indicate whether a solution is possible,” the president said.
Anastasiades repeated that in New York the two leaders reaffirmed their intention to work intensively towards completing their effort for a solution “as soon as possible, and if possible within 2016”.
“It is an ambitious goal, the achievement of which is not fully up to us, as the existence of good will from the Turkish side will play a decisive role,” he added.
Meanwhile, on the occasion of the 56th anniversary of the Republic of Cyprus’ independence day, US President Barack Obama offered his people’s “heartfelt congratulations” and belief that a just and lasting settlement is “within reach” in a letter to Anastasiades.
“We value our partnership, which we have worked to strengthen over the past few years,” he added.
“Together we have broadened our efforts to promote stability and combat terrorism in the region. We have fostered greater opportunities for regional economic integration, and we will continue to work with you to strengthen further our bilateral security, trade, and investment ties as well.”
The US President commended the “significant progress being made toward achieving a just and lasting settlement to reunify the island as a bizonal, bicommunal federation”.
“A settlement would unlock great potential for regional cooperation and would offer all Cypriots a brighter future,” he said.
“We remain deeply committed to supporting your efforts and we believe a settlement is within reach.”
Obama’s sentiments were echoed by US Secretary of State John Kerry in a statement.
“The bonds of friendship between the Republic of Cyprus and the United States are rooted in common values of freedom and democracy, and can be seen in our joint efforts to promote peace, prosperity, and security for all our citizens,” Kerry said.
Kerry said that both countries were working together to advance economic development for Cyprus’ businesses and workers, to enhance border security, deepen energy cooperation, counter violent extremism, and curb the proliferation of dangerous weapons.
He also said the US remained focused on finding a fair and lasting solution to the longstanding division of the island.
“The Cypriot leaders have demonstrated tremendous dedication, persistence, and perseverance in pursuit of an agreement on a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation – and I truly believe that a reunified Cyprus is finally within reach,” said Kerry.