1 February 2010Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon – who as a citizen of the Republic of Korea says he understands the “emptiness” of a country divided into north and south – today stressed that a solution to Cyprus’ long-running problems is “within reach,” calling for the leaders of the two communities on the Mediterranean island to step up their efforts to reach agreement. “No one is under the illusion that any of this is easy. Peace negotiations never are,” Mr. Ban told reporters after meeting in Nicosia with Greek Cypriot leader Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat.“But the time is ripe to push ahead. I am convinced these two leaders can achieve a mutually beneficial solution.”The Secretary-General said that he is in Cyprus on his first-ever visit to the nation to show his support for the “Cypriot-led and Cypriot-owned process” to reunify the island.In May 2008, Mr. Christofias and Mr. Talat committed themselves to working towards “a bicommunal, bizonal federation with political equality, as defined by relevant Security Council resolutions.”The partnership will comprise a Federal Government with a single international personality, along with a Turkish Cypriot Constituent State and a Greek Cypriot Constituent State, which will be of equal status.“For decades, the world has heard about the Cyprus problem. Now is the time for the Cyprus solution,” said Mr. Ban, who arrived in the country yesterday, pledging the United Nations’ ongoing support in the process.Following their meeting with the Secretary-General, the Cypriot leaders voiced “confidence that with goodwill and determination, we can achieve a solution in the shortest possible time.”In a statement read out by Mr. Ban, they said that the Cyprus problem has remained unresolved for too long.Although “time is not on the side of settlement,” they underscored that there is now a window of opportunity to find a solution “which would take into full consideration the legitimate rights and concerns of both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.”Earlier today in the capital, Nicosia, the Secretary-General welcomed the start of the second phase of stabilization work at Ledra Street/Locmaki crossing, which he said has become “the symbol of the two leaders to heal divisions and to work together towards a common future.”The crossing was opened in April 2008 following an agreement by Mr. Christofias and Mr. Talat, which Mr. Ban hailed at the time as “positive step forward.”From his own experience as a citizen of the Republic of Korea, “I have seen for myself the very sad reality, the emptiness and destruction and such very painful feelings I share with the people of Cyprus,” he said today.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.