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The Elders: "The momentum for reunification of Cyprus must be sustained and agreement reached by the end of the year"

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Following a joint statement by the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities, The Elders encourage both sides to build on areas of agreement and sustain momentum towards the reunification of Cyprus.

The Elders welcome the joint statement made by Greek Cypriot leader Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat yesterday. They call on the people of Cyprus, their leaders and the international community to sustain the momentum for reunification and aim to reach agreement by the end of the year.

"Of course we were hoping that the people of Cyprus would be celebrating reunification by now", said Archbishop Desmond Tutu, chair of The Elders. "Each time we have visited the island we have urged the leaders and their teams to speed up the pace of negotiations. I always have to remind myself that these things take a long time. But I remain hopeful. There are already many areas of agreement and the leaders say they can achieve a comprehensive settlement. The momentum for reunification is real, and it must be sustained."

Chair of The Elders Archbishop Tutu and his fellow Elders former UN Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland and former US President Jimmy Carter have made three visits to Cyprus in October 2008, September 2009 and December 2009. In September 2009 Mr Brahimi and Dr Brundtland also met officials in Ankara and Athens to discuss progress on reaching a settlement in Cyprus. They have always been impressed and encouraged by their meetings with Mr Christofias and Mr Talat, and also by their meetings with many Cypriots from both north and south who are working for peace and reconciliation.

"Talks on establishing a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation must continue with the active support of regional and international actors," said Mr Brahimi. "Together they should aim to complete the process by the end of the year. The people must also be prepared for compromise – no agreement is ever perfect, but this process, if successfully completed, is without doubt the best and most secure option for generations to come."

"The message we have heard repeatedly from both sides in Cyprus, as well as in Athens and in Ankara is that everyone wants an agreement," said Dr Brundtland. "The beginning of work to open the Limnitis/ Yeşilırmak crossing is just the most recent sign that things are moving in the right direction. I hope this kind of contact will continue and grow. You cannot resolve problems without talking to each other."

"I truly believe that the best outcome for the people of Cyprus is for their island to be united in peace, under one flag," said President Carter. "It is also clear that the courageous leaders, Mr Christofias and Mr Talat, have worked hard to overcome internal and external pressures to try to reach a solution. They have come very close and say they can reach an agreement. I sincerely believe that lasting peace is what the people want. This important work must continue. A lasting settlement between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots is the only way for Cyprus to secure its future as a leading player in the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East."

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This media release is also available in Ελληνικά & Türkçe (PDF).

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