Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades said that confidence building measures, such as the return of the ghost town of occupied Famagusta to its lawful inhabitants under UN administration, will boost the peace talks and become “a game changer of unprecedented proportions.”
In his address at the exhibition marking 50 years of the United Nations forces in Cyprus (UNFICYP), Anastasiades said that his vision is that in the not-too distant future these negotiations will bear fruit and a settlement will be reached, meeting the aspirations of all Cypriots to peacefully co-exist in a European country, enjoying full respect of their fundamental human rights and freedoms.
This, he said, “will single-handedly contribute to creating a climate of mutual trust between Greek and Turkish Cypriots; it will give an added impetus to the negotiations by restoring the hope, trust and confidence of the people of Cyprus in the prospect of a settlement on the Cyprus problem.”
He said that the time has come to lend the negotiations – which have now entered a new phase – the significant boost that only the implementation of such confidence building measures could give.
Peace talks with Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglou resumed in February after a long lull and negotiators from both sides have been meeting regularly to lay the groundwork for a possible peace deal, seen by many entering a final phase by 2015.
Anastasiades expressed certainty that blue-bereted men and women, as well as UN officials at all levels will take all necessary measures to expand UNFICYP’s mission in order to accommodate the restoration of the fenced area of Famagusta.
A minute silence was observed for the 184 peacekeepers who, since 1964, lost their lives while serving in Cyprus.
He said that in the summer of 1974, UNFICYP’s terms of reference were tested, since, “following the Turkish invasion and in the midst of war, peace-keepers tried to broker local ceasefires and assist the afflicted population.”
“Indeed, many UNFICYP soldiers were killed when their positions came under fire, either in crossfire or in defence of Nicosia International Airport, now UNFICYP’s headquarters, from Turkish attack”, he went on to say.
The President said that in the immediate aftermath of the Turkish invasion, UNFICYP assisted the High Commissioner for Refugees, the Red Cross and other international relief organisations as they helped victims of the invasion, facilitated deliveries of medical and food supplies and worked towards locating missing persons and the release of prisoners of war.
He added that more recently, UNFICYP has played an important role in achieving the demining of the buffer zone and facilitating the opening of crossing points.
In her speech, UN Head of Mission, Lisa Buttenheim said that this year UNFICYP marks its 50th anniversary as the longest, continuous presence of the UN peacekeeping force.
Its ongoing commitment, she said, is to reach a comprehensive solution of the Cyprus problem as soon as possible.
“Tonight we pay tribute to over 100,000 men and women from 32 countries who as peacekeepers have contributed to the maintenance of peace and security on the island and to pay a special tribute to those 184 who lost their lives in the service of peace in Cyprus” she stressed.
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