3 September 2008Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has welcomed today’s launch of full-fledged negotiations between the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities that are aimed at reunifying the island of Cyprus. In a message to the formal launch in Nicosia, Mr. Ban commended Greek Cypriot leader Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat “for their seriousness of purpose, sense of compromise and commitment to seeing the peace process through to a successful conclusion.”The Secretary-General stressed that “the United Nations supports and encourages both parties as they take this historic step together, so as to reach a negotiated settlement to reunify the island for the benefit of all the people of Cyprus.”Mr. Ban’s message was delivered by his Special Adviser on Cyprus, Alexander Downer, who issued his own statement at the launch wishing Mr. Christofias and Mr. Talat success during the negotiations.“You own this process and, as a result, your continuing leadership is the critical element to make it succeed,” Mr. Downer said. “In that regard, bringing Cypriots to the conviction that reunification of the island will work for the greater happiness and prosperity of all Cypriots will, ultimately, be paramount.”The Special Adviser said significant progress has already been made in the lead-up to the negotiations, including in the work of technical committees that have agreed on a number of measures designed to improve the daily lives of Cypriots.“The timely implementation of these measures will show Cypriots in practical ways that the communities can live together and will also help give you the political space to move forward.”He added that although “there have been difficult moments over the past months and there will likely be further difficulties and challenges ahead,” the problem of Cyprus was not insurmountable.“A comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus issue will be your enduring legacy and an inspiration to a troubled world,” Mr. Downer told the leaders.In May, Mr. Christofias and Mr. Talat committed themselves in a statement to working towards “a bicommunal, bizonal federation with political equality, as defined by relevant Security Council resolutions.” The partnership will comprise a Federal Government with a single international personality, along with a Turkish Cypriot Constituent State and a Greek Cypriot Constituent State, which will be of equal status.The UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) has been in place on the island since 1964 after the outbreak of intercommunal violence. It is tasked with preventing a recurrence of fighting, contributing to a return to normal conditions and the maintenance of law and order.