Cyprus could be on the brink of a historic peace deal, the divided island's leaders said in Davos today. It would bring to an end what has been described as one of the world’s most intractable ethnic disputes.
The island has been divided since 1974, when Turkish forces invaded the north. They were responding to an Athens-backed military coup. The border dividing the island’s Greek and Turkish inhabitants, called the “Green Line”, is patrolled by UN peacekeeping troops.
The UN has in the past attempted to broker a peace deal between the conflicting parties. In 2003, a proposed deal fell through, with lvaro de Soto, the former UN special adviser on Cyprus, describing it at the time as “deeply disappointing”.
Speaking during a special address, Nicos Anastasiades, the president of Cyprus, said he believed this year could lead to a breakthrough in what he referred to as an “unacceptable status quo.” The deal would come at an important time for both the country and the wider region, he added.
In an interview Anastasiades gave ahead of the address, he admitted that there were still difficult issues to resolve. But both sides were pushing for an end to the decades-long conflict: "At the moment now in our neighbourhood, we are witnessing many clashes and enormous bloodshed. We are working tirelessly in order to find a solution and a model of coexistence between Christians and Muslims."
Mustafa Akinci, the Turkish-Cypriot leader, also expressed his commitment to reaching a peace deal, telling participants they are “working tirelessly to achieve a mutually acceptable solution”, and adding that he hoped 2016 would be the year they did so.
The announcement builds on previous attempts to improve relations. In December, the two leaders for the first time issued a joint TV address to wish residents of the divided island a happy holiday.
At the end of the Davos session, both leaders shook hands, accompanied by the Forum’s executive chairman, Klaus Schwab.
The Annual Meeting is taking place in Davos from 20 to 23 January, under the theme “Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution”.