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President Steinmeier wraps up his historic official visit to Cyprus

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will be visiting an asylum seekers reception and accommodation center, a high school in Nicosia and Lefkara village, in Larnaka district, before leaving the island early in the afternoon of Tuesday, 13 February.

His official visit to Cyprus began on Sunday, 11 February.

Early in the morning the German President will visit Archbishop Makarios III Gymnasium at Platy Aglantzia, in Nicosia, and will attend the pilot German language learning program. Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education, Marina Ioannou Hasapi, will be present, on behalf of the Minister of Education, Athena Michaelides.

Later he will visit Kofinou Reception and Accommodation Center for Applications for International Protection, accompanied by Minister of the Interior, Constantinos Ioannou, who will inform him about the situation there. The German President will also have the opportunity to speak with people staying at the center as well as with individuals who work there. 

Before departing, the German President will visit the village of Lefkara, while later on he will have lunch with the President of the Republic Nikos Christodoulides at the village of Kato Drys.

In these days of coming spring, there is reason to look to the future with some optimism German President Frank- Walter Steinmeier said on the evening of Monday, 12 February, welcoming at the same time, President Christodoulides’  “sincere commitment to move forward on the Cyprus issue”.

Speaking at a state banquet hosted by President Christodoulides in his honor, at the Presidential Palace, the German President noted that the appointment of the new personal envoy of the UNSG “is an important step to reinvigorate the UN-led talks and overcome the stalemate of the recent years”.

“Germany stands ready to support the UN in its process. The German Government decided to send German police officers to join the peacekeeping mission for the first time”, Steinmeier pointed out.

Addressing President Christodoulides, the German President said that they both served their countries as Foreign Ministers in the past, adding that he is well aware of the great experience of the international network that President Christodoulides brings with him to the Presidency.

“At the same time, you are an accomplished academic who continued to publish on the history of the Cyprus issue well into your active political life. I believe that in times like this we need such scholar statesmen who can envision a better future and find ways to actually get there. You can count on Germany to be at your country’s side,” President Steinmeier also said.

He noted that even if this is the first-ever visit by a German President, he personally knows Cyprus quite well, not only because he has good friends here but primarily because the situation on the island was always a key issue during his long years as Foreign Minister, “sometimes with great hope, other times with bitter disappointment when solutions that seemed within reach did not materialize”.

“But even more vividly I remember the strength shown by the people of Cyprus who are dealing with the challenges of a difficult neighbourhood and despite obstacles are persistently working for a better future for the coming generations”, the German President said.

He added that we live in times of conflict and times of challenge, pointing out that «this year’s European elections are decisive to find solutions to our common challenges such as migration and to refute antidemocratic voices,» noting that «together we call on Cypriot and German citizens to go out and vote and take part in shaping the European future.»

In his toast at the banquet, the President of the Republic said that Steinmeier’s visit to Cyprus is the first visit by a Federal President of Germany since the establishment of Cyprus-Germany diplomatic relations in 1960.

He spoke once again of a historic event of significant symbolism, which stands as a substantial milestone of the relations between the two countries.  

President Christodoulides said that he is also truly pleased that they are witnessing increased contacts and exchanges between the two countries at all levels, describing this “as another testament to our common desire to further reinforce our substantial cooperation, both at bilateral and European level”.

He said that earlier they had a very productive meeting and exchanged views on several issues concerning the bilateral relations, their common European agenda, regional issues as well as the Cyprus problem.

“I am very pleased to say that during our deliberations we have confirmed that our countries see eye to eye on several important issues.

The rich histories and cultural identities of Germany and Cyprus are unique pieces that form the intricate European mosaic. Our countries, together with the other 25 Member States, are an integral part of our common European home, the European Union”, he noted.

In his toast, the President also noted that this year we mark 20 years since the accession of the Republic of Cyprus to the European Union.

He said that this anniversary and this visit by the President of Germany, are an opportunity to celebrate our European identity, to reflect on all that we have jointly achieved these 20 years in reinforcing our Union and to set new goals for the future, in order to fulfill our common aspiration for an even stronger and more integrated European Union.

Ηe also said that this year we will also mark 50 years since the illegal Turkish invasion, adding that during their meeting but also during our visit to the Green Line, he reassured President Steinmeier of his firm commitment to work for the reunification of Cyprus.

"My vision is that Nicosia will soon stop being the last divided capital of Europe and that all Cypriots will be able to prosper in a reunified Cyprus, a Member State of the EU. In this vein, I have thanked President Steinmeier for the stance and support of his country for the solution of the Cyprus Problem based on the relevant Security Council resolutions and, of course, the values and principles of the EU”, the President also noted.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. Repeated rounds of UN-led peace talks have so far failed to yield results.

The latest round of negotiations, in July 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana ended inconclusively.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appointed María Ángela Holguín Cuéllar of Colombia as his personal envoy for Cyprus, to assume a Good Offices role on his behalf and search for common ground on the way forward in the Cyprus issue. 

(Source: CNA)

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