31 January 2010Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today praised the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders for the significant progress made under United Nations-backed talks on reunifying Cyprus, as he arrived on the Mediterranean island for the first time. In 2008 Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat committed to establishing a federal government with a single international personality, along with a Turkish Cypriot Constituent State and a Greek Cypriot Constituent State, each of equal status. “I am under no illusions that the Cyprus problem is easy to solve, or about the difficulties that you face,” Mr. Ban said on his arrival at Larnaca Airport. “At the same time, I am confident that a solution is possible and within reach.”In December, the Security Council extended by six months the mandate UN peacekeeping mission in Cyprus (UNFICYP), which was set up in 1964 to prevent further fighting between the communities. After hostilities erupted again in 1974, its responsibilities were expanded to supervise ceasefire lines, maintain a buffer zone and undertake humanitarian activities.Mr. Ban said he was impressed by the time and energy invested by the two leaders over the past 16 months during the fully-fledged negotiations on reunification of the island. “I am pleased by the significant progress that has been achieved recently on governance and power-sharing,” he said in remarks commending the efforts of Mr. Christofias and Mr. Talat. “I am here to encourage the two leaders to bring these talks to a successful conclusion,” he said, noting that reaching a “mutually acceptable solution will require courage, flexibility and vision, as well as a spirit of compromise.“You are the ones driving the process and the ones who will benefit from the tremendous benefits and opportunities a settlement would bring to this island,” said Mr. Ban.During his three-day visit to Cyprus, Mr. Ban is slated to hold discussions with Alexander Downer, his Special Adviser for Cyprus, as well as with Mr. Christofias and Mr. Talat.