Brown says he had the opportunity to discuss recent developments in the settlement negotiations with President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias in London last week and that he looks forward to meeting Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat soon.
He adds that Cypriots from both communities have made a ”huge contribution” to life and society in the United Kingdom and have integrated into British society, while fully retaining their own distinct identities.
In his article, Brown says both communities have suffered historical injustices in Cyprus and that ”now is time to heal the wounds of the past and move forward to a brighter future.”
”It has never been more vital that Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots in Britain, standing together, urge their leaders to go the extra mile. Because there now exists an unprecedented opportunity to end the 35 year long division of the island,” he points out.
Brown says the leaders of the two communities have shown ”enormous courage and determination” and that ”real progress has been made in their talks” and ”much ground has been covered,” noting that ”the challenge now is to turn opportunity into reality.”
”I firmly believe that, with flexibility and compromise, an agreement is possible next year,” he says, adding that the issues are ”complex and difficult” and that he does not underestimate the scale of the task facing the two leaders.
”The solution to the Cyprus problem must and will be a Cypriot one, a solution for Cypriots by Cypriots. While the British Government will not interfere, there is an abundance of international goodwill within the international community, including from the Government, for negotiations to reunify the island to succeed, and for history to be made,” he says.
He assures that ”the United Kingdom stands ready to support the process in any way we can” and that his Minister for Europe, Chris Bryant, will visit Cyprus later this month.
”And last week I took the step of announcing that the UK has offered almost half of its Sovereign Base Area territory to the UN as part of the talks. I put this offer on the table. It is now for the Cypriot leaders to decide how to use it as part of the settlement process,” he adds.
Brown points out that ”difficult compromises will be required to balance the interests of both Cypriot communities,” adding that ”the prize is great” and that ”a unified bi-zonal, bi-communal federal Cyprus with political equality, delivering the benefits of EU membership to its citizens and contributing to peace and stability in the region.”
He notes that ”this would not just be a new dawn for Cypriots” but that ”it is in British, European and wider international community interests too.”
”As I said last week in Berlin, on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the tides of history may ebb and flow, but that across the ages, history is moving towards our best hopes, not our worst fears. Today, my message to Cyprus’ leaders and to you is a simple one. You can make history. Be bold, be courageous. The UK will support you,” he concludes.
Cyprus, which joined the EU in 2004, has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
The leaders of the two communities in Cyprus have been engaged in UN-led direct negotiations since September 2008, with an aim to reunify the island.
Financial Mirror, November 20, 2009