Cyprus’ ri­val lead­ers at­tend the­atri­cal play to foster trust, re­uni­fi­ca­tion deal

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY MENELAOS HADJICOSTIS

The ri­val lead­ers of Cyprus at­tended a the­atri­cal play on Mon­day that im­plores the di­vided is­land’s Greek- and Turk­ish­s­peak­ing com­mu­ni­ties to con­front the wrongs of a tor­tured his­tory to drive home their shared com­mit­ment for a re­uni­fi­ca­tion deal.

In an added touch of sym­bol­ism, Ni­cos Anas­tasi­ades, the 69- year- old pres­i­dent of the in­ter­na­tion­ally- rec­og­nized Repub­lic of Cyprus and the 67- year- old leader of the break­away Turk­ish Cypri­ots, Mustafa Ak­inci, watched the play in their com­mon home­town of Li­mas­sol, a bustling, cos­mopoli­tan tourist re­sort on the is­land’s south coast.

It’s the first time op­pos­ing lead­ers in Cyprus have watched a play to­gether in long- stand­ing ef­forts to re­unify the small, east Mediter­ranean is­land na­tion, split along eth­nic lines in 1974 when Turkey in­vaded in the wake of a coup by sup­port­ers of union with Greece.

“On this is­land, we com­mit­ted mis­takes, both Greek Cypri­ots and Turk­ish Cypri­ots,” Ak­inci said af­ter the play.

“The point is to de­rive lessons from th­ese past mis­takes and build a bet­ter fu­ture for younger gen­er­a­tions.”

Ak­inci said Anas­tasi­ades would re­cip­ro­cate a visit to the break­away north to at­tend a sim­i­lar event.

Anas­tasi­ades said he would ask his ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter to per­form the play in all Greek Cypriot schools in or­der to con­vey the mes­sage that mis­takes were made on both sides from the time the is­land gained in­de­pen­dence from Bri­tish colo­nial rule 55 years ago.

“We will work tire­lessly with my dear­est friend Mustafa to bring peace, to give a chance to younger gen­er­a­tions to live in peace and pros­per­ity,” Anas­tasi­ades said.

Anas­tasi­ades greeted Ak­inci on the steps of the his­toric Rialto Theater with some on­look­ers clap­ping their ap­proval.

“I want a so­lu­tion and this is a step for­ward, things can’t stand still and with­out bold steps for­ward you regress,” said 53- yearold Le­fki An­to­niou, a by­stander who was among the crowd to cheer the two lead­ers on as they ar­rived at the theater.

The play by Turk­ish Cypriot poet Faize Ozdemir­ciler is an un­bi­ased lamen­ta­tion and a lash­ing out at Cypri­ots’ col­lec­tive suf­fer­ing — and re­spon­si­bil­ity — for man­ag­ing to drive a wedge be­tween both sides, said Uni­ver­sity of Cyprus Turk­ish stud­ies pro­fes­sor Ni­azi Kizilyurek who helped trans­late the work from Turk­ish to Greek.

“The au­thor en­gages in a dia­logue with Cypri­ots and speaks as a Cypriot to all, both Greek Cypri­ots and Turk­ish Cypri­ots with em­pa­thy, but also crit­i­cally,” Kizilyurek said.

AP

The Greek Cypriot Pres­i­dent of Cyprus Ni­cos Anas­tasi­ades, cen­ter right, and leader of the break­away Turk­ish Cypri­ots Mustafa Ak­inci, cen­ter left, watch a theater play en­ti­tled “Sad­dened in Greek, Hurt in Turk­ish” at the Rialto Theater in their home­town of Li­mas­sol on Mon­day, June 8.

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