ISTANBUL (AP)–U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday praised Turkey’s contributions to world peace but encouraged it to be more active in solving its own conflicts with Armenia and Cyprus.
Turkey said Monday it would not ratify a deal to normalize ties with Armenia until Armenian withdrew from the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. On Cyprus, it insists on the lifting of what it calls an unofficial trade embargo on the breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in return for opening Turkey’s ports to ships and planes from Cyprus.
“Let us build on your new diplomatic relations with Armenia,” Ban said in an address at Istanbul’s prestigious Bogazici University. “And let us seize the opportunity in Cyprus. Talks resume next week. A convergence of views is taking shape. We should seize this critical moment.”
The division of Cyprus — between an internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south and a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north — is complicating Turkey’s own accession negotiation in the European Union. The Mediterranean island split in 1974, when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of union with Greece.
“The leaders of the two communities should make a decision, people have suffered too much, too long,” Ban said. “I hope they will be able to make a decision based on compromise and flexibility. This is what international community really wants.”
On Friday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Ankara was prepared to allow planes and ships from Cyprus to use its ports and airspace if the embargo was lifted, allowing Turkish Cypriots to trade through its ports of Kyrenia and Famagusta and through Ercan airport in the Cypriot capital of Nicosia.
“The world will open three ports to the Turkish Cypriots, we in Turkey will open all our ports to Greek Cypriots. It’s a promise,” he said.
Ban arrived in Istanbul to attend an international conference focusing on restoring order in Somalia — gripped by anarchy and political turmoil. High level officials met Friday in a preliminary session to lay the ground for Saturday’s conference, which will be attended by Ban and Somali President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed.
Somalia has been mired in anarchy since 1991, allowing piracy to flourish off its shores. Ahmed on Thursday reversed his decision to fire the country’s prime minister amid divisions over how to combat Islamic insurgents allegedly linked to al-Qaida, saying there is need for unity.
The conference is co-hosted by the United Nations and Turkey, which is keen to expand relations with African nations.
Ban welcomed Turkey’s hosting of the conference as well as its participation in peacekeeping operations in Lebanon and Afghanistan. He said Turkey’s mediation efforts in the nuclear standoff with Iran and attempts to work out territorial disputes with Greece had opened “channels of communication that might otherwise close.”
Turkey and Brazil on Wednesday urged the U.N. Security Council to refrain from more sanctions for Iran, saying a compromise they brokered this week is the best way to resolve the dispute over Tehran’s nuclear program.
“We hope that this and other initiatives may open the door to a negotiated settlement,” Ban said. “The International Atomic Energy Agency will provide its own professional assessment, of course.”