Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akinci has said that he is optimistic that an agreement can be reached, possibly within months, to end the 41-year-old conflict that has divided Cyprus.
The President said that a key lesson from the last attempt to reach a peace deal in 2004 is the critical need for political leadership on both sides to convince the Turkish Cypriots and the Greek Cypriots that it’s time to reunite the country and that failure to do so could have serious consequences.
“Time is not on the side of a settlement”, Akinci warned in an interview with the Associated Press (AP) on Friday.
“With the passage of time collective memory is getting lost, and unfortunately younger generations are becoming more alienated from each other”, he said.
If Cyprus isn’t reunified now, Akinci said that he is very afraid that succeeding generations “will be seeking a different kind of solution which will be more along the lines of division”.
Akinci, who has a strong track record of reaching out to the Greek Cypriots, said that his motivation in pursuing a peace deal is to end decades of isolation for some 300,000 Turkish Cypriots and ensure that they become equal partners in the international community.
The recently elected Turkish Cypriot leader said that he and Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades have met several times and had “a good beginning,” which is important. “We need to continue in this manner and, more importantly, we need to finalise in this manner. We haven’t discussed the main issues yet. We started with certain confidence-building measures”, Akinci added.
Akinci cited two “triggers” for a solution that did not exist in 2004 when the two sides voted on a peace plan backed by Kofi Annan, then the U.N. Secretary-General.
Noting that the first trigger is Cyprus’ financial crisis, Akinci said that what perhaps is changing on the Greek Cypriot side is the realisation that joining the EU didn’t solve Cyprus’ financial problems. It also didn’t enable them to dictate or impose a solution to the conflict with the Turkish Cypriots, he added.
The second trigger, Akinci said, is the discovery of natural gas in the eastern Mediterranean off Cyprus. This has led to the realisation in some quarters, he said, that rather than having the natural gas be a source of tension between the two communities and with Turkey, it would be wiser to solve the Cyprus problem and make the gas “an asset for a solution”.
Akinci said that he believes the majority of the Turkish Cypriots support an end to the conflict.
The parameters of a deal are well known, he said. “We’re talking about a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation. We are talking about a two-constituent states that will have powers for themselves and a central government.”
Bayrak Television (Online)