Cyprus religious leaders discuss peace with UN envoy

Turkish Cypriot religious affairs head Talip Atalay said that religion could lead the way towards teaching the politicians how to manage peace and how to co-exist, as they did during the island's Ottoman era for many centuries.

Cyprus religious leaders discuss peace with UN envoy

World Bulletin / News Desk

The UN's new Special Adviser to Cyprus, Espen Barth Eide, on Friday hailed a meeting held between the religious leaders of the eastern Mediterranean island within the framework of the ongoing Cyprus peace talks as “very inspiring.”

Pointing out the “incredibly important role” religious leaders on the island could play in bringing about a solution to the forty-year Cyprus problem, Eide said the lunch, which was hosted by the Swedish Ambassador to the island, Klas Gierow, focused on the belief in humanity, human rights, tolerance and living together.

According to Cyprus Mail, Eide also said all the religious leaders were adamant that religious differences should not be exploited for political purposes.

Speaking after the meeting, Greek Orthodox community leader Archbishop Chrysostomos II said “We cooperate fully for the peaceful coexistence of our people and we have made it clear that the Cyprus problem is not religious. Never in Cyprus did we have a religious problem.”

Likewise, Turkish Cypriot religious affairs head Talip Atalay said that religion could lead the way towards teaching the politicians how to manage peace and how to co-exist, as they did during the island's Ottoman era for many centuries.

Armenian Archbishop Varoujan Hergelian and Latin Patriarchal Vicar Reverend George Kraj also attended the gathering, in addition to Talip Atalay's representative in the Greek Cypriot-controlled south Sakir Alemdar.

Meetings between the religious leaders of Cyprus have become a regular opportunity to encourage dialogue between the two major religious groups on the island - Muslims and Christians - as the the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot governments seeks to resolve the Cyprus dispute.

Turkey has maintained a military presence in the island's north as a constitutional guarantor of peace after Greek extremist militant group EOKA, which sought to unite the island with Greece, conducted a coup on the government in July 1974 after having forced Turkish Cypriots to flee enclaves.

Failure to reunify the island led to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) declaring independence in 1983, which is today only recognized by Turkey.

A 2004 referendum saw Turkish Cypriots vote 'yes' to reunify the island, but plans failed when the vast majority of Greek Cypriots voted 'no'. Nonetheless, the Greek Cypriot administrated southern Cyprus was accepted into the EU while the TRNC remained under international embargoes.

Last Mod: 19 Eylül 2014, 17:27
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