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UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon encouraged on Monday the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus to make the most of the momentum in ongoing settlement talks, noting that “the prospect of a solution in Cyprus is within their reach”, and expectations in both communities are high.

Speaking at Mont Pelerin, Switzerland, before the launch of intensive talks aiming to tackle the issue of territory and other outstanding issues, Ban assured the two leaders – the President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades and the Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci – of his full support and the commitment of the United Nations to assist them in whatever way to reach their shared goal, while respecting that the future of Cyprus will be determined by Cypriots, for all Cypriots.

He called on all interested parties, especially the guarantor powers Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom, as well as the wider international community, to support the leaders in their efforts to finally overcome the division of their island.

Ban said he highly commends Akinci and Anastasiades for their efforts, adding that “significant progress has been made in this leader-led process over the past eighteen months. At the same time, a number of sensitive and difficult issues still remain. I know the two leaders are here with a strong commitment and determination to work towards solving all these issues.”

He said that the two leaders have reached a critical juncture in their talks. “I encourage them to make the most of the moment and the momentum. It will be crucial as they tackle the outstanding issues across chapters, during this week in Switzerland and beyond,” he added.

“I commend the leaders for their vision, courage and leadership for advancing their talks further than ever before. The prospect of a solution in Cyprus is within their reach. Expectations in both communities are high,” Ban said.

“I am here to open this week of intensive negotiations between the Greek Cypriot leader, His Excellency Mr. Nicos Anastasiades, and the Turkish Cypriot leader, His Excellency Mr. Mustafa Akıncı,” Ban said, adding that “the talks will be conducted under the auspices of the United Nations Special Adviser, Mr. Espen Barth Eide, and will concentrate on the chapter of territory as well as all other outstanding issues interdependently.”

He said that the two leaders have expressed their hope that this meeting will pave the way for the last phase of the talks in line with their shared commitment to do their utmost in order to reach a settlement within 2016.

“Cyprus offers tremendous hope to people around the world that long-standing conflicts can be resolved peacefully through negotiations. I am here to assure the two leaders of my full support and the commitment of the United Nations to assist them in whatever way to reach their shared goal, while respecting that the future of Cyprus will be determined by Cypriots, for all Cypriots,” the Secretary General pointed out.

“I call on all interested parties — especially the guarantor powers Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom — as well as the wider international community, to support the leaders in their efforts to finally overcome the division of their island,” he stressed.

Ban thanked the Government of Switzerland “for their generosity in hosting us.”

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied 37% of its territory. Anastasiades and Akinci have been engaged in UN-led talks since May last year with a view to reunite the island under a federal roof.

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