US Vice President Biden affirms the role of civic representatives in the peace process

May 22, 2014

(PHOTO CREDIT: Christos Avraamides)

Nicosia, 22 May 2014 – United States Vice President, Joe Biden, has applauded Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot civic representatives from political parties, trade unions, professional associations and non-governmental organisations for their efforts to support the Cyprus peace process. These efforts are being supported by UNDP-ACT to explore options for structured dialogue processes to develop shared visions for the future of a united Cyprus.

During the event in the UN Buffer Zone, Biden told civic representatives “Your efforts can have a profound influence on the leaders to pursue a settlement. You understand the fears and concerns of the ordinary people. You understand how what is being discussed affects ordinary lives”. He added that a successful outcome in every engagement he’s been involved in has required groups like this who contribute ideas and efforts. “I’ve never seen a peace that lasts when it has not been taken to the people first”.

Biden used his comments to reiterate that finding a solution to the island’s division is not the role of the two leaders and their negotiators alone. “No peace can be made between leaders alone. Peace requires trust. Everyone has to make some significant concessions. We all know that, you all know that but the benefits far outweigh the costs. Peace has to reside in the hearts of those who are making peace”.

Emphasizing that “All politics is local”, the Vice President placed the role of the civic representatives at the heart of this endeavour. He encouraged them to continue their efforts, reaching deep into their communities to explain why a settlement will benefit everyone on the island, what compromises will need to be made to achieve peace and what benefits will come from a solution. Biden highlighted that now is the time and the opportunities are “staggering for this island”.

Participants expressed their own hopes for reconciliation to the Vice President. They stressed that Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots are willing to live together and work together towards reconciliation and reunification. They also stressed the need to be courageous in learning from past mistakes and to look forward to creating a shared future. In response Biden stressed that “Hope for this country lies in its people. You are the hope for this country”.

The Vice President concluded his comments by quoting US Senator George Mitchell on the Northern Ireland peacemaking experience: “After 700 days of failure all you need is one day of success. One day of success is out there. There’s an inevitability to it. The question is how much more pain, how much more discontent, how much more wasted opportunities?”

The event at the Ledra Palace Hotel was also attended by the head of the UN in Cyprus, Lisa Buttenheim, the US Ambassador to Cyprus, John Koenig and the two chief negotiators, Andreas Mavroyiannis and Kudret Özersay.