By Jean Christou
PRESIDENT Nicos Anastasiades on Monday met the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Cyprus Lisa Buttenheim, a day after he said indications for the new round of talks were not encouraging.
Anastasiades met Buttenheim for around an hour but no statements were made.
Buttenheim is expected to leave on Tuesday for New York, to meet with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and former special adviser Alexander Downer whose role she is filling at the moment. Downer resigned the day negotiations resumed on February 11 and is reportedly due in Cyprus this month to say his farewells.
On Sunday during a public event in Liopetri, Anastasiades sounded pessimistic for the first time since the talks began although he has only met Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu the once. They are due to meet again on March 31. The bulk of the negotiations are being carried out by the chief negotiators from both sides, Andreas Mavroyiannis and Kudret Ozersay who meet around once a week.
“I must say that the first indications are not as encouraging as we would like them to be,” said Anastasiades. “That is why I am saying that the struggle begins now and it will be difficult,” Anastasiades said.
Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said on Friday the talks would likely enter the give-and-take phase next month, which will test the mettle of both sides on substantive issues.
Ozersay who is due in New York this week for contacts with UN officials, said that during the negotiators’ latest meeting last Friday they had come close to starting a process of give-and-take. Property was also discussed.
They had agreed to resume the process through shuttle diplomacy to be conducted by the UN, and the focus of their next meeting on March 25 will be to conclude issues where divergences exist.
Yesterday Eroglu said property was the most difficult issue at the negotiating table. He said the fact that some people had been living in certain properties for 40 year would have to be taken into consideration.
Meanwhile the government has rejected any notion of revisiting the issue of direct trade between the north and the EU. Reports were circulating at the weekend at certain quarters within the EU that were attempting to reintroduce the idea on a trial basis.
But Deputy Government Spokesman Victoras Papadopoulos said this would be unacceptable.
“The government would like to clarify that under no circumstances it will accept such proposals or suggestions,” he said in a written statement on Sunday.
He said Anastasiades would discuss the issue on Thursday in Brussels with Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule.
“The president will also clarify the government’s position that such proposals, if they exist, can only cause problems, especially after the resumption of talks… and therefore they will not be accepted,” he added.