President Nicos Anastasiades assured Cypriots living abroad that, despite the economic crisis and the rapid developments in the region, finding a solution of the Cyprus problem constitutes the top priority for the government.

He also said that developments in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea underscore the stabilizing role Cyprus plays in the region and, in conjunction with the discovery of natural gas reserves in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) give the Republic a unique advantage on both a European and an international level.

Addressing the opening ceremony of the 17th meeting of the International Conference of Overseas Cypriots (POMAK-PSEKA) and the conference of the Executive Council of the Organization of Young Overseas Cypriots (NEPOMAK) that began Wednesday in Nicosia, President Anastasiades praised the contribution of overseas Cypriots in promoting efforts for a just and viable solution of the Cyprus problem.

He pointed out that the recent developments in Syria, Turkey, Egypt and Lebanon stress the need for a stabilizing role for Cyprus in the region and underscore the strategic importance of the country.

The President assured expatriate Cypriots that the government will seek to further strengthen bilateral relations with Israel and the USA in order to achieve a new dynamic in the peace process in Cyprus.

“Despite developments in the region, despite the difficult economic situation we face today, our priority is the solution of the Cyprus problem, the reunification of our country, and the creation of those conditions that would allow everyone without exception, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, to live together peacefully and cooperate in a modern European country”, he said, adding that “in this context we have specific positions and opinions that can lead to positive results.”

Referring to government proposal on the return of Famagusta as a first positive and practical step on the part of Turkey, ahead of a new round of negotiations expected to begin in autumn, President Anastasiades said that it seems the proposal is being accepted by the international community.

“It is interpreted as a tangible sign of our will to move the Cyprus issue out of the current deadlock and create the conditions that will give new impetus and momentum to efforts for a comprehensive settlement of the problem”, he added.

After expressing concern about the growing trend of the Greek Cypriots to appeal to the illegal commission on immovable property in Cyprus’ northern Turkish occupied areas, President Anastasiades said the government would like to see important EU member states exerting their influence on Turkey with regard to the Cyprus problem.

Moreover, he said the new peace process should make Turkey accountable for the proposals submitted at the negotiating table.

Referring to the key role that the National Council (parliamentary parties) has to play on drafting a comprehensive solution framework, President Anastasiades stressed that the Cyprus issue concerns everybody, adding that there is no room for a new failure. He reiterated that the negotiations should be well prepared if a positive outcome leading to a solution is the objective.

President Anastasiades then referred to the economy, pointing out that a titanic effort is underway to manage the difficult situation and put the economy back on the track of growth. He expressed the conviction that with everybody’s contribution and cooperation Cyprus will succeed. “The successful outcome of the government’s efforts largely depends on the individual, on the people of Cyprus who so far have demonstrated a high level of awareness and responsibility”, he said.

Anastasiades assured that the government`s goal is to turn the crisis into an opportunity to convert Cyprus into a modern European state with a modern public service. Stressing the need to change the structures of the public service, Anastasiades called on the parliamentary parties to assist this effort.

Finally, Anastasiades assured overseas Cypriots that Cyprus will get back on its feet, as it has done after the Turkish invasion in 1974. “I am convinced that united we will succeed”, he said, adding that “if we put aside political expediencies, we will achieve our goals much sooner that some would have us believe,” he concluded.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37% of its territory. Repeated UN-led rounds of peace talks have so far failed to bring about a negotiated settlement that would reunite the country. Talks are expected to resume between the two Cypriot communities in autumn.

Efforts over the years for the legitimate citizens of Famagusta to return to the city have met the refusal of the Turkish side. A new effort has been launched recently by President of the Republic Nicos Anastasiades, who submitted a proposal for the return of Famagusta and the use of its port by the Turkish Cypriots for exports to EU countries.

The President believes this would help build confidence, proving that the two communities on the island can coexist peacefully in conditions of prosperity and peace.

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