Still hope for peace in Cyprus, WCC delegation concludes

April 4, 2003

Despite the failure of recent peace negotiations, there is still hope for a peaceful settlement in the divided island of Cyprus, a World Council of Churches delegation concluded after a recent visit--but only if the Greek and Turkish communities reconcile at the grassroots level.

Peter Weiderud, director of the WCC's international affairs office, said that although a peace plan offered by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was not accepted, it created hope and demonstrated that 'reunification of the island is possible.' He said that the energy released in both communities, especially among Turkish Cypriot youth, is in danger of turning into apathy, pessimism and frustration.'

'There is very little interaction and a lot of mistrust between the two communities,' said Salpy Eskidjian, WCC program executive for Middle East affairs. 'The people of Cyprus need to honestly address their past histories, heal pain on both sides, build confidence and trust. A peace plan has to engage the people of Cyprus at the grassroots, not just the treetops.'

'Reconciliation needs to begin now, even in the absence of a signed plan, in order to pave the way for a solution,' Weiderud said. 'The churches have a unique role and responsibility to be a catalyst for such a process.'

'The two communities still need the auspices of the UN secretary general and international solidarity in order to solve this decades-long conflict, to bring together what has been divided by geopolitics, mistrust and war,' said Bishop Vasilios Karayiannis of the Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus, a member of the WCC Central Committee.