Chairman of the Elders, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former US President Jimmy Carter and former Algerian Foreign Minister Lakhdar Brahimi, are currently in Cyprus to hold a series of meetings with the leaders of the two communities, Cypriot President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, as well as with others involved in the current Cyprus talks, the civil society and the youth.
In short statements at the Nicosia airport area at the UN controlled buffer zone, the three members of the Elders, surrounded by Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot schoolchildren, said they are on the island to encourage the two leaders in their efforts to solve the Cyprus issue.
They also stressed that they are not in Cyprus as mediators, but they will hold a meeting with the leaders, and others, in order to get the messages to the rest of the world.
The members of The Elders expressed optimism that the Cyprus talks will yield results. After speaking to the press, they met with the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot schoolchildren.
In his statement, Archbishop Desmond Tutu said that the Elders have come to the island to give encouragement to the initiative of the two leaders and described the current time as very exciting and propitious.
“We want to be able to tell the people that nowhere in the world do you really have what are intractable problems. I come from South Africa where they believed that the problem of Apartheid would be resolved only through violence, it wasn’t and today we are a democracy”, he added.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu expressed belief that the Cyprus problem can be solved.
“We believe it is possible to have a settlement in this beautiful island with its beautiful people”, he said.
Taking the floor, former US President Jimmy Carter said that the Cypriot people will make a decision about their future and this decision must not be taken by anyone from outside.
“It is a pleasure for me to be again in Cyprus. This is a place that is observed very carefully by all the rest of the world, because we have seen the two courageous young leaders who have come forward recently to correct a misunderstanding that has been here for 35 or more years, since I was in the White House”, he said.
He added that “it is very important for all the people who live here to know that the rest of the world is pulling for you, for finding an accommodation between both communities on this island so that you can live in peace with freedom, democracy, equal treatment among all people and a proper adjustment for the mistakes that have been made in the past”.
The former US President said that the Elders would meet the two leaders as well as those who are involved in the talks.
“It is not a role for the Eldest to become involved in negotiations but we are here to give our support and after we leave from here to try to tell the rest of the world what progress we see, both now and in the future”, he explained.
Carter noted the role of the young people in contributing to achieving a Cyprus solution, saying that everywhere in the world, where there are “misunderstandings”, young people are the ones who look into the future and want to find peace and accommodation.
“So it is an honor for us to be here and see the interesting and exciting, challenging but promising talks that are going on and we pray and hope that they will be successful”, former US President said.
The Algerian Foreign Minister said that they have come to Cyprus to congratulate the two leaders “for taking this decision but having taken this decision you now have a very very big responsibility to make it work”.
“The rest of the world – I can assure – you prays and hopes that they will be successful”, he added.
He said that the Elders are looking forward to talking to the leaders, listening to them and exchanging views with them.
He clarified that they are not in Cyprus to act as mediators.
“We are not mediating, they don’t need mediation, I think that is what they are saying, what they are saying is that we are going to solve our problems ourselves and this is a very important and good decision”, he noted.
Addressing the young people, Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot pupils, he said that “the island belongs to them and they want to live in it together and this is a very important decision that they share with their leaders and we wish them well”.
“We will carry to the rest of the world in the best way we can the message we are going to take from this young people and from their leaders”, he concluded.
Financial Mirror, October 09, 2008