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Leaders of Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities meet for dinner


08:26, May 31, 2013

NICOSIA, May 30 (Xinhua) -- Cyprus' President Nicos Anastasiades met Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu on Thursday night for the first time since elected in February, but he denied that the meeting was a first step in restarting negotiations to reunite the divided eastern Mediterranean island.

The meeting took place at a dinner hosted by Lisa Buttenheim, the special representative of the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Cyprus.

Fittingly enough, it was held at a UN-controlled compound in the buffer zone dividing Cyprus since Turkish troops occupied the northern part of the island in 1974, responding to a coup by Greek army officers.

Repeated rounds of negotiations failed to reach an agreement on a Cyprus settlement and the United Nations have made it known that they work for the resumption of the negotiations.

They aim to continue from the point they were left off when the Turkish Cypriot side stopped talking after the Cypriot government became rotating president of the European Council on July 1, 2012.

However, Anastasiades has said that he intends to withdraw some concessions made by his left-wing predecessor which met with strong resistance by the Greek Cypriot community.

Anastasiades has also written to Ban, telling him of his strong objection to moves by Alexander Downer, special adviser of the secretary-general on Cyprus, to make the dinner a starting point of new negotiations.

Anastasiades said he would not attend the dinner in case of moves giving it political connotations, such as a briefing of the UN Security Council members by Downer on the outcome of the dinner.

To avoid the risk of cancelling the dinner, Downer told UN Security Council members in a teleconference prior to the dinner of his efforts to restart negotiations and expressed the hope that the dinner will facilitate his efforts.

Just before the dinner, Downer met Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides to assure him that he has no intention whatsoever to embarrass the Greek Cypriot side by pushing for early resumption of the negotiations.

Anastasiades told the United Nations he would not be ready to restart negotiations before September at the earliest, as he is currently preoccupied with rebuilding the island's banking system which was torn down by international lenders in return for a 10-billion-euro (13-billion-U.S. dollar) bailout.

The Eurogroup and the International Monetary Fund forced major depositors to recapitalize the island's largest lender, Bank of Cyprus, using their own savings and also wound down the second largest lender, Cyprus Popular Bank.

Anastasiades and Eroglu have met in the past at private dinners hosted by each other, but that was before Anastasiades was elected president to head a government which is internationally recognized as the only legal authority representing Cyprus.

On leaving the dinner, Anastasiades was asked whether it is possible for the talks to restart.

He replied, "All is possible when there is good will. But we are still at the stage of preparation."

A statement read by Downer said it had been a good evening and the dinner went well.

"The two leaders were pleased to be able to meet and they remain committed to a solution which will create a bright future for the whole of the island," the statement added.

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