By Charlie Charalambous (AFP) – Jan 31, 2010
LARNACA, Cyprus — UN chief Ban Ki-moon landed in Cyprus on Sunday for key talks with Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders aimed at reviving a faltering peace effort to end 36 years of division on their island.
"I'm here to show my personal support ... My visit is a reflection of the importance I attach to the current efforts," he told reporters at Larnaca airport on the south coast to mark his first visit to the Mediterranean island.
"I am under no illusion that the Cyprus problem is easy to solve or about the difficulties you face, at the same time I'm confident that a solution is possible and within reach," the secretary general said.
Ban paid tribute to the "time and energy" invested by rival Cypriot leaders and said they needed to show "courage, flexibility, vision and a spirit of compromise" to end the division.
"Your destiny is in your hands, you are the ones driving the process ... The expectation of the international community is very high. Let's not underestimate the benefits of a solution," he said.
"Solving the Cyprus problem will give inspiration to all those around the world trying to solve other seemingly intractable problems and I'm looking forward to having good meetings with the leaders tomorrow (Monday)."
The Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders say they are committed to finding a solution this year, while the United Nations is hoping 2010 will usher a Cyprus settlement.
President Demetris Christofias, a Greek Cypriot, and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat are looking to secure a breakthrough after nearly 17 months of slow-moving negotiations.
Peace talks were launched amid much optimism and fanfare in September 2008, but the two sides remain divided on the core issues of property, security and territorial adjustments.
On Monday, the UN chief is due to hold separate talks with both men before chairing a joint meeting to decide where the process goes from here as pressure builds for a deal to be sealed this year.
Christofias has ruled out any draft agreement at this stage, as both the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides are adamant that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.
Any deal which emerges must be put before the Cypriot people in separate, simultaneous referendums.
At the last referendum in 2004, Greek Cypriots rejected a UN blueprint for reunification while Turkish Cypriots backed it.
The international community has called for the momentum of the negotiations to quicken, with Ban showing his personal conviction to help broker a settlement after more than three-and-a-half decades of division.
The intercommunal talks will need to be suspended soon to allow Talat to campaign in April's leadership elections in northern Cyprus where he could lose out to hardliners.
Cyprus has been split since Turkish troops seized and occupied its northern third in 1974 in response to a Greek-led coup aimed at uniting the island with Greece.
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