Political courage to solve the Cyprus problem is in short supply, the UN’s special representative Colin Stewart said on Wednesday, in an appeal for relevant actors to take the “tough decisions” needed.

It is the first time in seven years since the talks collapsed in Crans Montana that the UN appointed an envoy to Cyprus, he stressed.

“That alone is a tremendous opportunity. It doesn’t mean the problem is going to be solved but it means that this is a moment we can make out something of, if we want to.”

“We have to seize whatever opportunities we have, however small. We don’t know if there is going to be another opportunity”.

The irony in Cyprus

Stewart was speaking at the Ledra Palace, in an event dedicated to the role of civil society in keeping peace, on the anniversary of 60 years since the UN mandate on the establishment of Unficyp.

He highlighted it has been a seven-year wait for this opportunity.

“I know how hard you have all worked and how tired you are, but it’s now or never. This is the time to put all of your efforts into moving things into a solution.”

Stewart said one of Cyprus’ ironies in that the problem remains unsolved even though “there is a majority that wants this problem to be resolved in a mutually acceptable way.

“That means by definition through negotiations, through compromise, through win-win, through something that is good enough to everyone. And that’s going to require political courage and you know that is of a short supply.”

60 years nothing to be proud of

Stewart urged civil society actors to give political leaders courage by saying “we will support you if you make the tough decisions.”

He underlined leadership is all about compromise and that it takes a leader to make tough decisions.

Most of the substance of the Cyprus problem has, in one way or another, been discussed and converged, he specified.

Stewart highlighted that the 60-year anniversary is not a celebration. “There is no way that we can be proud of the fact that we have been here for 60 years”, he said, adding that Unficyp has not been able to fulfill its mandate.

“The purpose of a peace-keeping mission is to help solve the problem and then get out. We certainly haven’t finished it”, he said.

“Nonetheless, this anniversary reminds us that this conflict has gone unresolved for 60 long years. Let us use this opportunity to remind people that we should all be appalled that this situation is dragging on and maybe we can help motivate”.

Greece and Turkey ‘having a moment’

He added that UN envoy Maria Angela Holguin had a rich experience in bringing the war in Colombia to an end. “I am very impressed by her and I think she has very good ideas and motivation.”

Stewart told attendees that civil society has a key role to play in the ability to reconcile histories. “If you look at World War two, one of the things that cemented peace, was the agreement between France and Germany to collaborate on a common text.

“At some point, Cyprus is going to have to do that. Either now, to build conditions for a solution, or after. One way or another, this has to be done, because it will continue to be an obstacle”, he underlined.

He also added that civil society has a lot to offer in the technical committees and “we should look how to increase” this interaction. “We have proposed a new technical committee on youth, as well as having young people in the technical committees”, he noted.

Stewart noted that Turkey and Greece “are having a moment and that’s helpful”, adding that it does not mean that this will solve the problem, “but it’s so much better than the opposite”.

Additionally, “we have Greek Cypriots that are pushing for negotiations. That is not something that in the past we could have taken for granted.”