No alternative to peace, Anastasiades tells Akinci

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Division in Cyprus is not the choice of Cypriots, “there is no other alternative but to bring peace to our land” President Nicos Anastasiades told Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci.

Cypriot leaders were attending ‘Imagine’ Head Teachers Conference, organized by the bicommunal Technical Committee on Education involving Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot headteachers.

Both leaders appeared together in a show of unity after they snubbed a UN festive event last week.

President Anastasiades referred to the peaceful coexistence of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, he said that interventions by third parties “without excluding anybody” led to the problems that followed.

“What we are looking for is Cypriots, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, to take on the fate of this country by creating conditions for peaceful coexistence.”

He said his presence at the conference, together with Akinci, sent a message of support for the actions and initiatives of the Technical Committee for Education.

President Anastasiades said division does not allow fellow compatriots to enjoy the rights, freedoms and the level of prosperity other EU citizens enjoy.

“We acknowledge the difficulties but with respect to each other’s sensitivities and concerns and through mutual respect, we ought to merge what we consider to be the joint interests of Cypriots.”

Anastasiades called on teachers to continue educating critically thinking and active citizens who will search for creative solutions to the challenges that may arise in the future.

He also heralded the ‘Imagine’ program that has brought together more than 4,000 pupils and 650 teachers in the last 2.5 years.

The President said pupils are being taught Turkish Cypriot literary texts translated into Greek, while Turkish lessons are optional in high schools.

Before attending the conference, Anastasiades called for respect towards Cyprus, while saying that the island cannot be a vassal of any third country.

Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci referred to the importance of cultivating a culture of peace in Cyprus and highlighted the value of education.

Speaking through an interpreter, Akinci said that people may have different views and goals, but it is important to have a culture of peace in order to address these issues.

He also noted the importance of dialogue while trying to solve differences and referred to the need to respect equality, multiple identities and pluralism. All these elements are essential for the federal government to work, Akinci argued.

He said the decision to form the bicommunal Technical Committee in 2015 was “the most important decision we took with my friend Nicos.”

He said the Technical Committee has a long way to go and referred to the curricula and the instruction of Greek and Turkish in the schools.

“We need to encourage these initiatives in order to see them implemented and have peace,” said Akinci.

Cyprus reunification talks have remained dormant since an UN-backed conference collapsed in Switzerland in July 2017.