North Nicosia mayor: ‘Mediterranean peace requires acceptance of diversity’
By Devin Watkins
As the Mediterranean Forum wraps up in the Italian city of Florence, the mayor of North Nicosia in Cyprus offers his take on how best to achieve peace in the region that joins three continents.
Mehmet Harmancı told Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ that the Florence Charter, signed by Bishops and Mayors from across the Mediterranean, is very broad and was the result of a “very intense” discussion between religious and civil leaders.
The Charter, he said, reaffirms the need for regional residents to put aside war and conflict in favor of “peace and mutual understanding.”
Step forward for residents
Mr. Harmancı said the Florence Charter looks especially to the future generations, and urges local governments to create universities and improve social services for young people.
He noted that the Mediterranean region joins the three continents of Europe, Africa, and Asia and is therefore a critical area, especially given the abundance of natural resources.
The Florence Charter, he said, can help regional leaders take a step forward to improve the lives of their citizens.
Remembering forgotten wars
As war returns to Europe with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Mr. Harmancı expressed his full support for the Ukrainian people and condemned Russia’s aggression against its neighbor.
At the same time, he said, the war in the Middle East, especially Syria, cannot be forgotten, saying everyone should learn from past mistakes and not repeat them in Ukraine.
His words found echo on Sunday as Pope Francis appealed at the Angelus address for an end to all wars, urging people to remember the conflicts in “Yemen, Syria, and Ethiopia.”
Message of peace in city diplomacy
Mr. Harmancı said the Florence meeting, which brought together over 100 mayors and bishops, offered a “very strong message to the world, that city diplomacy could work and achieve something.”
Nicosia, he added, is a multicultural city split between Muslims and Orthodox residents, with a host of minorities.
“We need to live in peace and prosperity, and we need to give space to each people so they can express themselves,” he concluded. “As a critical geography like Cyprus, we need to achieve peace.”