The period after the elections in Greece and Turkey could be a significant, but also the last, opportunity, for “some progress in Cyprus,” Unficyp head Colin Stewart said on Tuesday.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Slovak Embassy’s reception for 34 years of bi-communal dialogue between political parties, he said that there is still distance between the two sides.
Stewart said the meetings of the parties are extremely important, adding that the UN supports every opportunity for bicommunal events and contacts, because they believe that “it is not just a nice thing to do, it is the way to a settlement”.
This particular group is extremely important, he added, “because they represent the people who elected them, they have a role in policy making and that’s why I’m here today; I’m very supportive of that”.
Especially at this moment, “where I think we are on the brink of a new opportunity to try to make some progress on the Cyprus issue,” he said. “When all the elections are over, we can get everyone focused”.
This is not only an important opportunity, but it may be the last opportunity, Stewart said.
“I am very worried that the way Cyprus is developing there will not be many opportunities, so I think we should all prepare to make every effort to help both sides reach a compromise that they both want,” he said.
“We have public opinion polls that confirm that the majority of the population on both sides want a mutually agreed solution through negotiations,” he added, “so I think we should all encourage those involved not to miss this opportunity in the coming months”.
Asked if he had received positive indications from his meetings with President Nikos Christodoulides and Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar, Stewart said he would see the Turkish Cypriot leader later in the afternoon, but added that during their meeting on Monday, Christodoulides agreed that the following period is an important opportunity and “we want to do everything we can to move the process forward”.
In reality, he said, “the two sides are far apart, so having an opportunity is not the same as solving the problem, but it is the first step”.
There has been a long wait for the election after which there will be an opportunity to “get everyone focused on the problem,” he added.
Asked if he himself will go to Greece and Turkey after the elections, the UN representative said that this is not necessarily his job. The UN, he continued, has close contacts with both countries, noting that he himself was in Brussels last week.
Asked what the UN can do to bring the Turkish side back within the framework of UN resolutions, Stewart said the UN’s job as a mediator is to help the sides find some common ground.
That is what they’ve always focused on and that is what they will continue to focus on, he added.
“Especially in the next period when we are expected to have this important opportunity,” he said.