‘Unity in Cyprus a chance for peace’: Bildt

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt declared on Friday that the negotiations on reunification in Cyprus brokered by the UN offer an unprecedented chance for peace in the region as a whole.

“We have a unique window of opportunity for settling the Cyprus issue. Twenty years after the fall of the wall in Berlin we still have a divided capital in Europe and that should not be acceptable to anyone,” Bildt told reporters.

“The efforts underway in order to overcome this, is of course of profound importance for Cyprus – but has European and global significance.”

Cyprus President Demetris Christofias, a Greek Cypriot, and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, launched negotiations last September that were heralded by the international community as the best chance for peace.

Bildt said Europe is banking on a solution to bring a “positive dynamic” to the region as failure would have a negative knock-on effect for the EU and NATO.

Sweden takes over the EU presidency in July and one of its main tasks will be to review Turkey’s accession progress. Factored into this progress report will be the state of play on the Cyprus talks and Turkey’s obligation – under the 2004 Ankara protocol – to allow Cypriot aircraft and vessels into its ports.

“The review of the Ankara protocol is one of the things that is going to happen under the Swedish presidency and there is an obligation to do that towards the end of the year.”

However Bildt hopes that there will be a “different political situation” on Cyprus when that deadline looms. The foreign minister said Turkey’s accession is “very important” for the European Union but that any accession process is “dependent on fulfilling the criteria” of the bloc.

The rival Cypriot leaders resumed UN-brokered peace talks on Tuesday after hardline nationalists won parliamentary elections in the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north, raising fears for the negotiations.

A UN-backed reunification plan in 2004 was scrapped after being rejected by Greek Cypriots but backed by Turkish Cypriots. Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded the northern third in response to an Athens-engineered Greek Cypriot coup to unite it with Greece.

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