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Cyprus Internet Directory [ Cyprus talks' momentum must be maintained-UN envoy ]

Cyprus talks' momentum must be maintained-UN envoy

Cyprus talks' momentum must be maintained-UN envoy
April 15, 2009 - By Michele Kambas (Reuters)

The United Nations envoy urged Greek and Turkish Cypriots on Wednesday to seize the opportunity offered by talks to reunite their island, but said time was working against a deal.

"They really have to succeed, because I think the alternative is ... a fairly dark future for Cyprus. I think it is going to be very tough for them if this fails," said Alexander Downer, a former Australian foreign minister appointed envoy for Cyprus last year.

Downer oversees talks between Greek and Turkish Cypriots launched last September and he told Reuters in an interview the sides were making "steady progress". He was encouraged by leaders' committment to the process but it was important that the momentum in negotiations was maintained.

"What other moment in history is going to occur which gives them an opportunity to reunite their country? ... You can never say never ... but this problem gets harder by the year to solve," Downer said.

Cyprus was split after a Turkish invasion in 1974 triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup. The conflict is complicating Turkey's hopes of joining the European Union.

The island is represented in the European Union by its Greek Cypriots who will obstruct Turkish entry to the bloc as long as Cyprus is divided.

Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat and President Demetris Christofias, the Greek Cypriot leader, are debating a raft of complex, divisive issues ranging from property rights of refugees to power-sharing. On paper, they agree on relinking Cyprus as a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation, but differ on how it will actually work.

In 2004, a United Nations reunification blueprint failed in a referendum when it was rejected by Greek Cypriots. New impetus was injected into the process in 2008 when Christofias, widely regarded as a moderate, came to power.

"It is important that the public understand the two leaders are committed, they are serious about it. It is not some public relations exercise," Downer said. "This is a genuine attempt to solve the problem in a new environment."


UN FACILITATOR

The two communities are leading the present process, with the United Nations acting as facilitator.

"I am cautiously optimistic about the process. I wouldn't have taken up this job if I didn't have some optimism for it," Downer said.

Talks are proceeding chapter by chapter. Negotiations are in a "first reading" stage while diplomats say issues which the sides have disagreed on will be debated in a second review.

The third stage is expected to feature the tough bargaining. Any deal agreed by the sides needs to go to a public referendum.

Turkish Cypriots have said they would want to see a deal by the end of 2009. Greek Cypriots have been cautious and said no deadlines should be imposed.

Downer declined to be drawn on the question of dates.

"If you set an actual date, the problem with that is that you will create a sense of crisis around the date, which makes the negotiation more difficult."

However, he said the present process must be finite. "To try to spin it out indefinitely is to condemn it to death, so there needs to be momentum," Downer said.


(Source: Financial Mirror, http://www.financialmirror.com/News/Cyprus_and_World_News/14930)



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