Greek, Turkish Cypriots march for reunification
About 250 Greek and Turkish Cypriots marched together Wednesday to urge their respective leaders on the divided island to reach agreement at a make-or-break reunification summit in Switzerland next month.
Demonstrators crossed the United Nations buffer zone, which divides the capital, Nicosia, and handed Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci a declaration urging him and his Greek Cypriot counterpart Nicos Anastasiades to seize the opportunity "without hesitation."
Protesters held signs saying "Yes To A Solution," and chanted "Cyprus belongs to its people" in both Greek and Turkish.
"We're here supporting the process," Turkish Cypriot Salih Ostoprak told the AP news agency. "We definitely expect a solution....Peace is for the benefit of Greece, Turkey and for the whole region."
Akinci greeted the demonstrators and said he hope next month's summit in Geneva will mark the "beginning of a new era."
The demonstrators then marched on to the presidential palace, where they handed the declaration to Deputy Minister Constantinos Petrides. Anastasiades was in Brussels attending a meeting of European Union leaders.
"Know that I'll continue my efforts for reunification," he said on his official Twitter account.
But the thorniest aspects of the decades-old dispute will have to be tackled at the summit in order for a new era to emerge.
Turkey invaded in response to coup
Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974 in the wake of a coup aimed at unifying the island with Greece. Turkish Cypriots declared a breakaway state in 1983 that only Turkey recognizes.
The island joined the European Union in 2004, but only the internationally recognized Greek-speaking south enjoys full membership benefits.
In Geneva, Anastasiades and Akinci are expected engage in territorial negotiations that would comprise the Greek and Turkish Cypriot zones of the envisioned federation.
If the two sides reach a deal than a meeting of Cyprus' so-called guarantors - Greece, Turkey and former colonial ruler Britain - would be held to discuss post-settlement security arrangements.
The two presidents agreed to resume the reunification talks after negotiations broke down in Switzerland last month.
There is growing international pressure for the leaders to pick up where they left off in an effort to reach a deal as soon as possible.
The leaders will meet for a final push in Geneva on January 9 and 11, having agreed to present maps of their respective proposals for the internal boundaries of a future federation.
Anastasiades and Akinci have been among the most outspoken proponents of a deal, but any agreement they reach will have to be approved by their respective communities in referenda.
bik/sms (AP, AFP)