Friday, 18 April 2014

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Cyprus leaders accelerate UN-backed proces of talks to unify island

Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders held further discussions today on the presidency and vice presidency of a bi-communal republic in ongoing United Nations-backed talks to unify the Mediterranean island, but have not yet reached any decision.

Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat decided to accelerate the pace of their sessions, meeting twice a week in two consecutive weeks next month, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative Tayé-Brook Zerihoun told reporters after the talks at UN premises in Nicosia.

In New York for talks with Mr. Ban and Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Alain Le Roy, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Cyprus Alexander Downer said he was cautiously optimistic on the talks to reunify the island, where UN peacekeepers have been deployed since 1964 to prevent inter-communal fighting, but a lot of work remained.

The talks seek to forge a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation with political equality. The decision to meet twice a week is “quite positive and they (the leaders) are upbeat about it themselves,” Mr. Zerihoun told reporters in Nicosia, adding that they had not yet decided on the executive power.

Mr. Downer said there were “some convergences and some divergences” on the issue, without going into further details. “The pace of the talks is now accelerating,” he told a New York news conference. “I’m cautiously optimistic. I believe what you have here are two leaders who are very committed to a successful outcome.

“You don’t have two leaders who are just turning up there for the sake of it and are not focusing on how to negotiate a successful bi-zonal, bi-communal federation with political equality,” he added, noting however that it is a complicated negotiation dealing not only with the structure of the new federation but with property, security, territorial and economic issues.

Mr. Downer said that although the week-by-week momentum in the talks, which began a year ago, may seem little, “I think if you take it in an overall sense, the momentum’s been pretty good.”

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