Turning the page of history in 2017

30 Dec 2016

Turning the page of history in 2017

By the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on Cyprus (SASG), Mr. Espen Barth Eide


Making peace is never an easy business. We only have to look at the recent peace deal finalized in Colombia to appreciate that the path to peace rarely follows a straight line. Colombia shows us that even with a decades’ long conflict the page of history can be turned with persistence and determination.

Building lasting peace means understanding the fundamental concerns of all peoples in a spirt of reconciliation, respect and recognition. The two communities in Cyprus are fortunate to have two such two leaders, Mr. Anastasiades and Mr. Akinci, both of whom are demonstrating the political will and strategic leadership to end a conflict that has divided their common homeland for way too long.

As the former Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon said recently, Cyprus is one of the few areas to offer tremendous hope in 2017. Our new Secretary-General, Antonio Gutteres also reminded us in his inaugural address that “In the end, it comes down to values. We want the world our children to inherit to be defined by the values enshrined in the UN charter; peace, justice, respect for human rights, tolerance and solidarity. The threats to these values are most often based on fear. Our duty to the peoples we serve is to work together to move from fear of each other, to trust in each other.”

As the leaders prepare for their meetings in Geneva just after New Year, the coming weeks will be crucial in securing a comprehensive solution. The leaders have their sights set on a future where all citizens of a united Cyprus can co-exist in peace with each other and their neighbours. They recognise that the status quo is unacceptable and unstainable, and that the current talks offer the best opportunity for a solution.

This time the talks are leader-led. Every letter, word and sentence will have been written by Cypriots themselves. The UN remains loyal to facilitating their efforts to achieve their shared vision of a united federal Cyprus, while maintaining that the future of the island will be determined by Cypriots, for all Cypriots.

The peaceful reunification of the island next year could offer a historic opportunity to finally turn the page of history in Cyprus. The island stands on the cusp of reaping real political and economic benefits not only for Cypriots, but also beyond the island across the wider region by contributing to stability and co-operation. Both sides recognise that any settlement must respect EU values and principles, ensuring that the fundamental rights and freedoms of all Cypriots are protected.

The leaders are discussing a new model fit for the 21st century that prioritises economic growth and development. A model for sustainable growth focused on tapping the human and commercial potential of a united federal republic in Europe, directing the future, together.

Support from the international community remains resolute.  The United Nations and I personally are committed to facilitating both sides to reach a comprehensive agreement and to implement a solution. Our assistance aims to ensure that implementation of a settlement is as smooth as possible and maximises peace dividends for all.

Across the island, I am encouraged by my meetings with young and old Cypriots, civil society activists, business leaders, religious leaders and so many others who are all helping to shape the course of Cyprus’ future. Their voice in support of a solution is getting louder and demonstrates the strong desire for peace amongst Cypriots.

As we approach the New Year, it is important to remember that it is the people who will make the final decision, once the Leaders have done their job. It is a real possibility that 2017 will be the year when the Cypriots, themselves, freely decide to turn the page of history.