Economic crisis blessing for Cyprus peace deal: UN envoy

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Cyprus
Nicosia, March 28: An outgoing UN envoy in Cyprus said on Thursday that the island's economic crisis may be a blessing in disguise regarding a peace deal eluding Greek and Turkish Cypriots for many decades.

Alexander Downer, a former foreign minister of Australia who served as UN secretary general's personal advisor in Cyprus for seven years, told a press conference that the prospects of economic growth could bring the estranged Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities closer together in seeking a solution, Xinhua reported.

Cyprus's unification under peace deal would be beneficial.

The two communities have been living apart in their respective regions of the eastern Mediterranean island since Turkey occupied its northern part in 1974, in response to a coup by Greek army officers.

"Economic circumstances, harsh as they are, can and have reminded people that a solution is beneficial for the island," Downer said one day after paying farewell visits to Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and the Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu.

Cyprus went through a shake-down of its economy and banking system last year, which involved a harsh austerity programme, after receiving a $10 billion bailout from the Eurogroup and the International Monetary Fund.

Downer will step down in mid-April to take up a new post as Australia's High Commissioner (ambassador) in London.

He said that should Cyprus be reunited under a peace deal, it would attract considerable investment.

PRIO, an international peace research institute working on peace building, has estimated that a Cyprus solution could boost economic growth by 3.8 percent per year, adding 18 billion euros to Cyprus' economy in 20 years.

Greek and Turkish Cypriot negotiators are engaged in a renewed round of negotiations since February 11.

Downer said the process for the solution of the Cyprus problem was in good shape and that there was a positive momentum.

IANS

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