UN chief urges rival Cypriot leaders to reach a quick solution

08:34, February 02, 2010      

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United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (C) holds hands with Greek Cypriot leader Demetris Christofias (L) and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat at a joint press conference in Nicosia, Cyprus, on Feb.1, 2010. Ban Ki-moon called upon the leaders of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities on Monday to proceed quickly and with "more courage" to a solution of the Cyprus problem. (Xinhua/Cyprus News Agency/Katia Christodoulou)

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called upon the leaders of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities on Monday to proceed quickly and with "more courage" to a solution of the Cyprus problem .

"The negotiations are not easy but the time is ripe for a solution," Ban said at a joint press conference after day-long meetings in Nicosia with Cyprus President Demetris Christofias, who is also the Greek Cypriot leader , and Mehmet Ali Talat, the Turkish Cypriot leader.

The Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders have been engaged in negotiations on a Cyprus settlement for the past 17 months, reporting significant progress on the thorny issue of governance and power sharing between their communities.

"I am here to show my personal support for the negotiations, which belong to the Cypriots," Ban said. "It is important to give more push to the process."

He called for "vision and flexibility" and added that he was given assurances by the two leaders that they will work for a comprehensive settlement.

Both Christofias and Talat said they were committed to continue their negotiations and find a solution in the shortest time possible, despite an upcoming vote to elect a "president" of the breakaway state in the northern Turkish part of Cyprus.

The United Nations and diplomats in Nicosia are concerned that the vote may lead to a deadlock of the negotiations if right wing nationalist Turkish Cypriot politician Dervis Eroglu replaces moderate Talat as leader of the Turkish Cypriots.

"The elections are important but the negotiations are more important. We must continue negotiating and I am ready to shoulder my responsibilities," said Talat, echoing a call by Turkey for the talks to continue despite the upcoming election.

Ban hailed "significant progress" achieved during intensive talks aimed at reuniting Cyprus, which has been divided into ethnically separate regions since Turkey militarily intervened and occupied the north in 1974 following to a coup by Greek army officers.

The Republic of Cyprus, which only effectively controls the Greek south, entered the European Union in 2004. It holds the key to Turkey's accession to the EU, because it can block further negotiations in reaction to Ankara's posture on a Cyprus solution.


United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (2nd L) inspects the UN-controlled buffer zone in Nicosia, Cyprus, on Feb.1, 2010. Ban Ki-moon called upon the leaders of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities on Monday to proceed quickly and with "more courage" to a solution of the Cyprus problem. (Xinhua/UN)

Christofias made an oblique reference to Turkey's role when asked to comment on the negotiating process. He said there have been convergences on the governance issue but there are still important aspects which have not yet been discussed, such as international guarantees and tens of thousands of Turkish mainland settlers in the Turkish Cypriot north.

Britain, Turkey and Greece are guarantors of the Cyprus Republic established in 1960, when the island became independent from Britain.

Ban read a joint statement by the two leaders committing themselves to negotiations on all aspects of the Cyprus problem.

"Good convergence has already been achieved in some Chapters. For the rest, we are determined to work hard to achieve the desired progress," the statement said.

It added that the Cyprus problem has remained unresolved for too long and that time is not on the side of a settlement.

"We express our confidence that with good will and determination, we can achieve a solution in the shortest possible time," said the two leaders.

The statement came at the end of separate meetings Ban had with Christofias and Talat and a joint session with the two.

The UN chief crossed through the buffer zone controlled by United Nations peace keepers in the morning for a meeting and lunch with Mehmet Ali Talat in the Turkish Cypriot sector of the divided capital, Nicosia.

The meeting was held in the office of Mehmet Ali Talat, in a building designated as "presidential palace". This soured the climate, provoking protests by President Christofias and the entire Greek Cypriot political leadership.

Well informed government sources said Christofias expressed deep dissatisfaction to Ban Ki-Moon when they met later, at what he described as a violation of agreed protocol arrangements.

Greek Cypriot parties deplored the meeting at Talat's office as an act denoting recognition of the breakaway state entity in the occupied part of Cyprus, contrary to UN resolutions.

Some of the parties boycotted a reception hosted by the United Nations for leaders of both communities this evening.

Alexander Downer, Ban's advisor on Cyprus made a statement on behalf of the Secretary-General saying that the meeting at Talat's office had no political undertones.

"The United Nations recognize only the Republic of Cyprus," Downer said.

He added that Ban met with Talat in his capacity of the leader as the Turkish Cypriot community, in the context of the negotiations for a solution to the Cyprus problem.

"The venue of the meeting has no political significance," Downer underlined.

Despite the bickering, which underlines the difficulties ahead in the road to a Cyprus solution, Ban was received enthusiastically by crowds of Greek and Turkish Cypriots.

They gathered on both sides of the dividing line to watch him unveil a plaque commemorating the beginning of restoration work on old and crumbling buildings.

They waved banners and chanted slogans exalting Ban to help the reunification process.

The buildings stand on both sides of a narrow street joining the two sectors of the old part of the capital, encircled by a mediaeval Venetian wall.

Ban said this part of the city, serving as a crossing point between the two sectors of the city, "is a symbol of the will of the community leaders to overcome whatever problems in their way to solution of the Cyprus problem and build a common future".

Restoration work on the buildings is funded by the European Commission in a gesture of EU support to reunification efforts.

Source: Xinhua
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