While talks to forge a security deal for a reunited Cyprus were taking place in Switzerland, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots gathered in the buffer zone on Tuesday evening, calling for peace and an end to the Cyprus problem.
The Mediterranean island has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37 per cent of its territory and upwards of 140,000 Cypriots becoming displaced from their homes.
The gathering took place at Cetin Kaya football pitch, organised by trade unions including PEO, the bicommunal initiative for peace – United Cyprus, the Turkish Cypriot Platform for a solution and peace, and more than 120 non-profit organisations and groups.
Representatives read a resolution on stage in Greek and Turkish to the two leaders, President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, which noted that in these critical times, when the two leaders are conducting decisive negotiations for the future of this island, “we are here to express our support to their efforts for a solution”.
They called on the two leaders to remain dedicated and committed to the effort and to reach a mutually acceptable solution that will correspond to the expectations of both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, a solution that will abolish division and create conditions of safety for all.
Described as the “moment of truth” by Espen Barth Eide, a former Norwegian foreign minister who is overseeing the negotiations at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, he further revealed that so far they had dealt with some of the most difficult issues.
“We’ve touched upon almost all of them, we have solved many of them and we are close to resolving some other issues,” he said, though he warned there was still work to do.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres shared the sentiment, cautioning that there would not be a “quick fix” in forging a security deal.
“You cannot expect miracles … (an) immediate solution. We are not looking for a quick fix, we are looking for a solid and sustainable solution for the Republic of Cyprus and for the communities of the Republic of Cyprus,” Mr Guterres said.
Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson praised the courage and determination of the leaders in coming this far to find a settlement.
“The most important thing clearly is that both communities should feel secure about their futures, and that is what the British government is here to help with,” Mr Johnson said.
While thousands are in support of a solution, the Greek Cypriot president continues to face opposition from rejectionist politicians. Six of the eight parties oppose a settlement based on the belief that Greek Cypriots who lost their property and homes would never be fully compensated.
Anastasiades and Akinci have been engaged in UN-led talks since May 2015, with a view to reunite the island under one federal roof.