The Cyprus problem remains “resolvable”, UNSG Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), Colin Stewart, said on Monday in a reception in Nicosia to mark the 60 years of the peacekeeping force’s presence on the island. Political courage, willingness to take tough decisions, to be criticised and to make compromises, was needed to get there, however, he noted.

In his speech at the reception at Ledra Palace, in the Nicosia buffer zone, Stewart, among other things, said that, he could see right now, “a glimmer of opportunity”, as regards the Cyprus issue, noting that Greece and Turkey were having “a more friendly moment”, the Greek Cypriot leader was actively pushing for a new political process “and for the first time, in seven years, we have a personal envoy”.

With much of the substance already discussed, and convergences reached, he said, “I believe that the Cyprus problem remains resolvable”. However, to get there, he added, political courage, willingness to take tough decisions, to be criticised and to make compromises, were necessary.

Referring to the appointment of Maria Angela Holguin Cuellar in January as the UNSG’s personal envoy on Cyprus, Stewart said that, almost seven years after the most recent talks in Crans-Montana in 2017, that ended inconclusively, this brought renewed opportunity in the political process.

Her appointment is a reflection of the Secretary-General’s continued commitment to supporting the two sides finding a way forward, he said.  “It is however, an opportunity that must not be missed”, he said, adding that it is becoming increasingly clear that time is running out as the space for a mutually accepted solution is becoming more and more narrow each year.

“We just do not know, whether or if there might be another chance if this one fails”, he said, adding that we cannot afford to wait and see what happens. Addressing the reception attendees, he said that Holguin must be able to count on the concerted efforts of everyone in the room.

Referring to the UNSG’s speech last year at the General Assembly, Stewart said that the Secretary-General, “reminded us that politics is compromise, that diplomacy is compromise, effective leadership is compromise”, and that leaders have the special responsibility to achieve compromise in building a common future of peace and prosperity for common good. “This message could not be more relevant for Cyprus”, he noted.

Stewart also said that the 60th anniversary of the UN presence in Cyprus, was “a sad reminder to all of us that the Cyprus issue has remained unresolved for too long, despite all the efforts that have been put into finding a solution”.

However, even if the talks have so far failed to bring about a solution, he added, “this does not mean that the work that has gone into the process over the decades has gone to waste”. To the contrary, he said, each round of talks, “has brought us that much closer to a settlement”.

Concluding his speech, he referred to the art work of Marina Genadieva, “Aerial Passages”, that was exhibited at the reception especially for the event. Stewart said it represented the buffer zone, noting that the image was also a curtain with the invisible line stopping people from going across.

Present at the reception were the President of the House of Representatives, Annita Demetriou, foreign ambassadors, UNFICYP veterans and personnel, and members of civil society from both communities.

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. 

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres appointed María Ángela Holguín Cuéllar of Columbia as his personal envoy for Cyprus, to assume a Good Offices role on his behalf and search for common ground on the way forward in the Cyprus issue. 

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