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Cyprus: it’s now or never

2009/10/14

Just returning from Nicosia after meetings with representatives of the Cypriot government and parliament, as well as the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community. The aim of the visit has been for the Swedish presidency to get as broad a picture as possible of the problems of the divided island, but also to assess the prospects of a solution. It’s clear that the Cyprus problem is totally dominating the political debate on the island.

Since 2008, president Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Talat are in intensive talks in order to find a solution. Both leaders, as well as the UN representative on the island, confirm that negotiations are moving forward, but slowly. Complex issues, such as property and the way in which a future Cypriot federation is to be governed, are yet to be solved. However, time is running. The ambition of both leaders to find a solution is forming a momentum that must be used to come to an agreement, hopefully by the end of this year.

The Swedish presidency is strongly supporting the negotiations and calls on both parties to continue talks and come to an agreement that can be subject to referendums on both sides. Negotiations are difficult and delicate and there are no guarantees of success, but failure to reach a deal means that status quo will remain for the foreseeable future.

I also met with representatives of PRIO, an NGO that has published two reports on the economic benefits of a solution. There findings were quite dramatic. It’s obvious that a solution to the problem would lead to increased security and a normalisation of life for all Cypriots. However, the economic benefits in terms of employment, growth, trade, investment and tourism are also quite enormous. It’s important that this kind of facts and arguments are presented in the campaign leading up to the possible two referendums – a campaign that will require a great deal of courage and leadership from both sides.

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