Leaders of Divided Cyprus Shine a Ray of Hope in the Region

In an unprecedented joint appearance at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, Nicos Anastasiades, President of Cyprus and Greek Cypriot Leader, and Mustafa Akıncı, Turkish-Cypriot Leader, shone a ray of hope in a region roiled by turmoil and uncertainty. Both leaders have been engaged in intense negotiations over the course of 2015 to find a peace settlement to reunite their divided island. A settlement could be reached in 2016.

Akıncı and Anastasiades emphasized their determination to continue their negotiations until a settlement is reached that will meet the aspirations and the needs of their citizens. “Since May 2015, we have been working hard to come to a settlement to transform our country from an island divided into one that is peaceful,” said Anastasiades. “There is a climate of hope prevailing on the island and we are taking into account the sensitivities and concerns of our communities.”

Anastasiades added that these are “decisive times” for Cyprus and the wider region, the European Union and the international community. Reunification would heal “an open wound at the heart of Europe.”

Akıncı confirmed that the two leaders are “working tirelessly” to achieve a mutually acceptable solution. “We are aware this is the last trial for uniting our island,” he said. Akıncı added that sharing natural resources, including water and electricity, will only be possible if “Turkish and Greek Cypriots see each other as future partners and concentrate on the goal to create a united Cyprus where peace and security will prevail and where future generations will not face the strife and uncertainties of the past.”

Both Anastasiades and Akıncı called upon the international community for financial and technical support in the wake of reunification. This support will be critical, particularly with the recent discovery of commercially exploitable offshore gas reserves. Both leaders noted that this discovery should be a source of peace, stability and regional integration, rather than friction.

Espen Barth Eide, Member of the Managing Board, World Economic Forum, and Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on Cyprus, is chairing the talks on behalf of the United Nations. “Divided for generations, last year brought fresh hope, principally driven by the trust, will and leadership of these two leaders,” he said.