Despite the challenges, there is “great potential” for a solution to the Cyprus problem, said the UN special representative in Cyprus Colin Stewart on Wednesday.

The head of the peacekeeping force was speaking during a reception he hosted at Ledra Palace in the evening to mark the end of the year.

The event brought together President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot Leader Ersin Tatar for the first time in seven months.

Media reported the two leaders spoke for about ten minutes with the participation of the UN envoy. The negotiator of the Greek Cypriot side Menelaos Menelaou and the special representative of the Turkish Cypriot leader, Ergun Olgun. Among the issues discussed were the halloumi PDO, Cybc reported.

After that, the two leaders were photographed together and shook hands.

This was followed by Stewart’s speech at the reception, during which he stressed the importance of keeping the dialogue open despite disagreements and obstacles. He also mentioned some ‘achievements’ that brought the communities closer.

He noted that there is great potential for a solution to the Cyprus problem and despite the challenges, the United Nations in Cyprus will not relax its efforts to help the two sides reach a common ground.

“We look forward to continuing our cooperation in the new year and it will be even more critical, as the two leaders have just discussed, to keep the dialogue open despite disagreements and despite any obstacles that may exist,” he said.

Thanking Anastasiades whose second term as president will come to an end in February, the UN special envoy expressed hope that the two leaders will meet again soon.

Stewart noted that despite 2022 being a year of challenges there were nevertheless achievements and thanked the G/C negotiator and the T/C special representative. He then praised the bi-communal technical committees for their perseverance in finding common ground in a wide range of areas for common benefit, despite the obstacles they may have faced.

The UN official said, among other things, that a sustainability study on waste management of electronic and electrical appliances had been completed, and referred to the increase in the volume of trade between the two sides under the Green Line Regulation.

For the first time this year there was trade in processed food of non-animal origin, Stewart said, while it was reported that 2022 might be a record high for trade between the two sides.

Meanwhile, he said that over the last ten years, there has been permanent electrical interconnectivity, mobile interoperability and the opening of new crossing points.

He added that the two sides have advanced proposals for confidence building and cooperation. Elements of these proposals have dominated his discussions with the T/C special representative and the G/C negotiator, he said, adding that they continue to explore the possibilities of moving forward with initiatives where there is common ground.

The crossing points show the benefits of increased contacts according to the UN official, who said such contacts remain vitally important to keep alive the hope for a mutually agreed solution to the Cyprus problem.

“The work you all are doing is extremely important and commendable. With the continued support of the leaders, we will continue our weekly meetings with the representatives of the two leaders and continue to support the technical committees to develop new agreements,” he said.

The reception was attended by associates of the two leaders, members of the diplomatic corps accredited to Cyprus, members of the bi-communal technical committees as well as members of civil society from both sides.

All parties involved had stressed that this is a social meeting, from which nothing is expected.

Earlier in the day, Anastasiades expressed hopes for the appointment of a special envoy for the Cyprus issue by the UN Secretary-General, and for an EU initiative to ensure cooperation with the UN and avoid new faits accomplis sought by Turkey.

Speaking to reporters while leaving the presidential palace to attend a lunch at the Czech embassy, the president clarified that the aim of social meetings like the one planned for Wednesday evening with the Turkish Cypriot leader was not to resume talks.

“But what I have expectations for is the latest visit of the Assistant Secretary General for European affairs, who has assured us that the interest of the UN Secretary-General remains active, so that the necessary conditions for the resumption of the dialogue can be created”.

Of course, in this period no one expects any development, given that there are elections in Cyprus, Greece and Turkey, he added.

“What should be taken into account is, on the one hand, the will of the Secretary-General, which I want to hope will be manifested in the appointment of a special envoy as he proposed;” the president added.

He also said he is endorsing an initiative from the European side in cooperation with the UN, to prepare the ground for the talks to take place.

“In cooperation with the UN, the EU can play a positive role towards the resolution of the Cyprus issue, always based on UN resolutions, the European acquis for the benefit of all Cypriots, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots”.

Asked to elaborate, Anastasiades said that the aims of the initiative would be twofold: one, to prevent new faits accomplis, and two, “to present a proposal that, without evading the UN resolutions, can be the common basis for a solution to the Cyprus problem, so that a functional and sustainable solution to our national problem can be found”.