Cyprus President, Nicos Anastasiades, and Turkish Cypriot leader, Ersin Tatar, met on Wednesday evening in the framework of an end of year reception which the UN in Cyprus hosted at Ledra Palace, in the Nicosia buffer zone.
Anastasiades and Tatar had during the event a discussion that lasted for more than ten minutes, with the participation of the UNSG's Special Representative in Cyprus, Colin Stewart, the Greek Cypriot negotiator, Menelaos Menelaou and the Special Representative of the Turkish Cypriot leader, Ergun Olgun. After that the two leaders had a photo opportunity with Stewart during which they shook hands.
In his address during the reception, that was attended by aides of the two leaders, members of the diplomatic corps accredited to Cyprus, members of the bicommunal technical committees, and members of the civil society from both sides, Stewart stressed the need to keep the dialogue open, despite disagreements and any obstacles, noting that "there is still plenty of potential to resolve the Cyprus issue, and, regardless of the challenges, the UN in Cyprus will not relax our efforts to help the two sides arrive at common ground."
He expressed hope that this will not be the last time that Anastasiades and Tatar meet, given the fact that the former's term of office comes to its end soon, and thanked Anastasiades for his cooperation all these years with the UN family in Cyprus.
Stewart thanked the Greek Cypriot negotiator and the Turkish Cypriot Representative for their dedication and commended the technical committees for their perseverance in seeking common ground across a wide range of areas of mutual benefit, despite whatever obstacles they may encounter.
He noted that while this was a challenging year in many ways there has been a number of achievements. He noted among other things that a pre-feasibility study on waste management of electronic and electrical equipment was completed and that there was an increase of the Green Line Regulation trade volume while this year we saw the first trade of non-animal processed.
Moreover, he said that both sides put forward confidence-building/cooperation proposals and that elements of these proposals have figured prominently in his discussions with the Turkish Cypriot Special Representative and the Greek Cypriot Negotiator "and we are continuing to explore possibilities for moving forward with initiatives that find common ground."
He also underlined that crossing points illustrate the benefits of increased contact, adding that such contacts remain vitally important to keeping hope alive of a mutually-agreeable resolution to the Cyprus issue.
Steward said that during the past ten years a lot of issues were discussed in depth during the various negotiations, while as regards confidence building measures, the permanent interconnectivity of the electricity grids, the mobile phone interoperability and the opening of new crossing points were achieved.
"As we look forward to continuing our cooperation in the New Year, it will be ever more critical, as the two leaders have just discussed, to keep dialogue open, despite disagreements and despite any obstacles," he noted.
"The work that you all do is extremely important and highly commendable. With the ongoing support of the leaders, we will continue our weekly meetings with the representatives of the two leaders, and we will continue to support the Technical Committees to develop new agreements," Stewart concluded.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. Repeated rounds of UN-led peace talks have so far failed to yield results. The latest round of negotiations, in July 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana ended inconclusively.