BY MENELAOS HADJICOSTIS
Waving peace flags and dancing to Cypriot folk music, hundreds of Greek and Turkish Cypriots demonstrated for peace on Monday as the ethnically divided island’s rival leaders continued complex reunification talks at a Swiss resort that will indicate whether an accord is within reach.
Organizers said the event inside the United Nations-controlled buffer zone dividing the capital Nicosia aimed to show the determination of Cypriots from both sides for an agreement ending more than four decades of division.
“Fear is holding us back,” said Greek Cypriot Rania Georgiou. “Our future must be a shared one.”
Turkish Cypriot Cem Parisiz said the island’s division has been allowed to drag on too long. “We breathe the same air, we drink the same water, we don’t need to be separated by borders,” he said.
A 1974 Turkish invasion triggered by a coup aiming at union with Greece divided Cyprus into an internationally recognized, Greek speaking south and a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north. Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence and maintains some 35,000 troops in the north.
Demonstrators, some wearing olive-branch wreaths, joined in spontaneous dancing as folk dancers performed a medley of traditional songs beloved by both Greek and Turkish Cypriots.
“We just want peace and love,” said Hazal Bariser at the event backed by more than 100 pro-peace groups from both sides.
The event took place as Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and breakaway Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci were locked in talks for a second day at Mont-Pelerin, Switzerland on how much territory Greek and Turkish Cypriots will run as part of an aimed-for federation.
It’s hoped that talks at Mont Pelerin will wrap up Monday with an agreement paving the way for a final summit to agree on post-settlement security arrangements. Anastasiades and Akinci aim to delineate zones that either side will administratively control ahead of the security summit.