NICOSIA – On Wednesday, February 26, 2014, religious leaders of Cyprus working with the “Office of the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process” under the auspices of the Embassy of Sweden reviewed and approved a joint statement in response to the release of political leaders on the resumption of peace talks in Cyprus.
The meeting took place in the form of a working lunch at the residence of the Swedish Ambassador in Nicosia, His Excellency Klas Gierow and moderated by Mr. Peter Weiderud, President of the “Religious Social Democrats” in Sweden.
Religious leaders present were Dr. Mufti Talip Atalay, the Orthodox Archbishop Chrysostomos II, Archbishop Maronite Dr. Youssef Soueif, Armenian Archbishop Varoujan Herkelian and Latin Patriarchal Vicar Fr. George Kraj. Also at the meeting was the special representative and head of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) Lisa M. Buttenheim.
At the end of the meeting, during a press conference, a joint statement was presented to the local and international media. Primarily it supports the initiative of politicians: “We are encouraged by the declaration of politicians who say that the status quo is unacceptable and that human rights and fundamental freedoms as well as the identity and integrity of each must be respected. We salute their explicit determination to resume negotiations in order to get results for their commitment and to implement confidence-building measures.”
“Ensure that the political conflict is resolved”
Then statement goes on to develop the proper role of religious leaders, affirming that “religion has been and still is a victim of the prolonged conflict. For too many decades we have not been allowed to meet, to listen to and understand the other. In recent years, the paper says, we have all tried to find practical solutions, build confidence, and we succeeded. […] We realize that our responsibility is to ensure that the political conflict is resolved, we believe that there is no alternative to the communication, cooperation and coexistence.”
With the support of the various Christian churches and non-Christians, politicians can dream a little more calmly on the outcome of the peace process. But this will not be sufficient for a plan to be adopted. The memory of the rejection by the Republic of Cyprus of the Annan Plan in 2004, for many political reasons, is still remembered.
Peter Loup de Raucourt with Father George Kraj, Patriarchal Vicar for Cyprus.