The new UN Secretary-General Special representative Colin Stewart hosted on Tuesday evening a reception for the leaders of the two communities at the Ledra Palace Hotel at the buffer zone.
The new representative, Canadian Colin Stewart arrived on the island last week, succeeding Elizabeth Spehar. The last time President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar met was last September in New York, at a tripartite meeting hosted by the UNSG Antonio Guterres.
"This is a good end of the year occasion to celebrate what we may have achieved in the past year...we have to take comfort in small achievements," -Stewart
President Anastasiades arrived first at the venue at around 1910 and was greeted by Stewart. A few minutes later Ersin Tatar arrived. Both were accompanied by their negotiators Andreas Mavroyiannis and Ergün Olgun.
They both greeted the guests, a closed circle due to measures in place for the pandemic. After a few words, a group photo was taken and the UNSG proceeded with his welcoming remarks.
The achievements of the Technical Committees with the support of the two leaders, Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar were praised by UN Secretary General’s Special Representative in Cyprus Colin Stewart. He also stressed the personal interest Antonio Guterres has in the Cyprus problem.
“We count on you to continue to push your people to solve these little problems that really affect the everyday lives of Cypriots,” he said addressing Anastasiades and Tatar in a welcome speech during a reception he hosted, which was the first time, as he pointed out, that the two leaders had the opportunity to get together in Cyprus.
Stewart spoke of the venue chosen for the reception the Ledra Palace hotel in the buffer zone, noting that it is “a very historic place.” As a newcomer, he added, “it strikes me as very symbolic of the cost of the conflict when we look at what this place must have looked like.”
Welcoming the two leaders the UN official said he was “very honored to have you here with us and I understand this is the first time you were put together here on the island, so it is a very good occasion for us to mark the end of the year and have you all together.”
“I am very pleased to be here and continue the good work of my predecessor Elizabeth and support what I know is a very important cause for the Secretary-General and that is to support both leaders in finding a mutually acceptable way forward,” he noted.
Stewart said that “I know it is important to him personally as he has demonstrated in the past year through informal gatherings that he has hosted in Geneva in April and in New York in September and I know he counts on me to do everything I can to support your efforts.”
This, Stewart added, “is a good end of the year occasion to celebrate what we may have achieved in the past year.” Sometimes, he noted, “we have to take comfort in small achievements, but I have been very impressed from what I have been briefed in recent days about the work of the Technical Committees.”
He continued pointing out that “in the past year, the Technical Committee on health has reached an agreement on reopening all the crossing points,” adding that “I think that was very important” and “harmonizing the COVID protocols, I think that was very useful.”
The Technical Committee on Education, he said, “has restarted a very important peace education program.”
The Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage has won an important award, the Europa Nostra, he added, noting that “it is a very good sign that things are moving forward.”
He also referred to the Technical Committee on Communications, saying it has reached an agreement on extending 5G throughout the island.
So, Stewart noted, “a lot of good work is being done and I would like pay a special tribute to many of the members of the Technical Committees who are here today and to the leaders for their support because without your political support these sorts of things are just not possible.”
He also reiterated that this was not a formal occasion but rather “an informal opportunity to wish everyone a very happy new year and take stock of some of the achievements that we have had,” adding that “I look forward to more progress in the coming year.”
President Anastasiades departed first at around 2000.
The ambassadors of the permanent members of the UN security council and heads and vice presidents of the 12 technical committees were also present at the reception.
Cyprus has been divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion. Numerous rounds of peace talks under the UN auspices failed to yield results.