UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci said Friday that an agreement on reunifying the divided Mediterranean island can be reached in months rather than years if talks with the Greek Cypriot president continue at the same pace, with the same determination and political will, as they have in recent months.
Akinci told reporters after meeting Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that he and Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades have agreed to intensify negotiations starting in November, and "if we work hard during November and December, then January, I believe we can achieve this goal."
Cyprus was divided in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of a union with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence and maintains more than 30,000 troops in the north. Cyprus is a European Union member, but only the internationally recognized south enjoys benefits.
A peace deal would unlock co-operation on the eastern Mediterranean's energy potential and bring some stability to a conflict-wracked region. Akinci said the hydrocarbon issue can and should be "a catalyst" to solve the Cyprus problem.
He said his vision is to see Cypriot gas, combined with Israeli gas, be channeled to Turkey via Cyprus, and from Turkey to European Union countries.
The Turkish Cypriot leader said that since a likely peace deal will include compensation for private property lost during the invasion and other issues, upcoming negotiations need to focus on where the money will come from. He said that during his talks at the U.N., "I am happy to see the eagerness to assist in this respect."
Ban welcomed the leaders' commitment to intensify negotiations to reach a settlement as soon as possible and pledged his personal support "and the United Nations' steadfast commitment of continuing to facilitate the efforts," U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.