been great steps towards resolving some of the world’s most intractable conflicts: in Colombia, in the Philippines and now in Cyprus. For the first time in over a decade, negotiators are close to reaching an agreement between between the internationally-recognised south and Turkish-occupied north.
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Mustafa Akinci, his northern counterpart, have met regularly on the island since the summer, and last week they decamped to Switzerland to tackle the thorniest issue of all: territory. After five days of talks the UN spokesperson said “significant progress has been achieved” and that the two sides had agreed to reconvene on November 20 with the aim of hammering out a final agreement by the end of the year.
Cyprus has been divided into two portions, partitioned by a demilitarised UN buffer zone, since 1974, when Turkey launched an invasion in response to a Greek-backed military coup. Under the plan now being discussed, it would be reunited as a federal, bicommunal state.
The talks are billed as make-or-break by two outgoing world leaders. Opening the session in Switzerland, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the two leaders had reached a “critical juncture”. A week later, on his final tour of Europe as US president, Barack Obama said there was a “window in the next few weeks, months” for the division to be resolved.
The UN has come close to reaching a settlement before only to have its hopes dashed at the final hurdle. In 2004, an agreement was reached and put to a referendum; it was accepted by the Turkish half but overwhelmingly rejected by Greek Cypriots in the west.
Still, there is genuine hope that this time a solution can be reached and enforced. “Cyprus offers tremendous hope to people around the world that long-standing conflicts can be resolved peacefully through negotiations,” said Mr. Ban.