UN Secretary General’s Special Representative in Cyprus, Colin Stewart, has expressed the belief that “we are on the verge of a new opportunity to try to have some progress on the Cyprus problem,” adding that this “may be the last opportunity.”

Stewart, who responded to questions by journalists, on the sidelines of a reception hosted by the Embassy of the Slovak Republic in Cyprus to mark the 34 years of bicommunal dialogue of representatives of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot political parties held under the auspices of the Embassy, said that after the elections in Turkey and Greece there is an opportunity to get everybody to focus on the problem.

The UN diplomat noted that the meetings of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot political parties are extremely important and that “the UN supports every opportunity for bicommunal events, bicommunal contacts, because we think that this is not just a nice thing to do, this is the path towards a settlement. And this particular group, the political parties are extremely important because they represent the people, they have been elected, they have a hand in policy making and this is why I am here today, I am very supportive of this event,” he added.

Especially at this moment, he added, “when I think we are on the verge of a new opportunity to try to have some progress on the Cyprus problem. When all the elections are out of the way we can get everybody focused, I think it’s not only an important opportunity, it may be the last opportunity,” Stewart said.

He went on to say that he was very concerned that in the way that Cyprus is evolving there will not be many more opportunities. “So, I think we all have to prepare to make all of our efforts to help the two sides to reach a compromise, which they both want,” he added.

According to Stewart, “we have public opinion polling that confirms that the majority of the population in both sides wants a mutually agreed negotiated solution. So, I think we all have to encourage those involved not to miss this opportunity the next few months.”

Stewart who met on Monday with Cyprus President, Nikos Christodoulides, and was set to have a meeting on Tuesday with Turkish Cypriot leader, Ersin Tatar, said that Christodoulides also had the view that the next period is an important opportunity.

“And we want to do whatever we can to move the process forward,” he noted, acknowledging that the two sides are very far apart. “Having an opportunity is not the same with solving the problem but it’s the first step,” he added.

Asked if he will visit Greece and Turkey after the elections, the UN diplomat said that it is not necessary to do that but the UN obviously has very close contacts with Greece and Turkey. “I myself was in Brussels last week. Somebody from the UN regularly visits Greece and Turkey,” he added.

Invited to say if the UN can do something for the Turkish Cypriot side to get back to the UN resolution framework, Stewart noted that “the job of UN as a mediator is to help the parties find some common ground. That has always been our focus and continues to be our focus”, he said, adding that they expect in the coming period to have this important opportunity.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. Repeated rounds of UN-led peace talks have so far failed to yield results. The latest round of negotiations, in July 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana ended inconclusively.

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