Cyprus Mail

Peace talks to take step back before going forward

President of the Republic Nicos Anastasiades

By Stefanos Evripidou

PRESIDENT NICOS Anastasiades will not start peace talks from where the two sides left off in 2012, he said yesterday after meeting UN Special Advisor Alexander Downer at the Presidential Palace.

The meeting was meant to be part of UN preparations for a dinner scheduled tomorrow between Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu.

However, both the dinner and Downer have been the target of criticism in recent days by the Greek Cypriot political leadership and most of the press. Yesterday’s meeting also turned sour, at least post-facto, when Downer was asked by reporters about a UN document containing convergences achieved in the peace talks between 2008 and 2012.

Responding to a question, the Australian said he handed the document over to both leaders on request last month, which is at least two weeks before the date Anastasiades initially said he received the document.

The president promptly issued a “clarification” statement following Downer’s comments made outside the Presidential Palace, confirming that the document was delivered to his diplomatic office on April 30.

However, Anastasiades argued he was not notified of the document until May 16, following statements made by AKEL leader Andros Kyprianou regarding its existence.
He put the failure to brief him “exclusively” down to his “workload and to the fact that my diplomatic office considered it simply a reference document and therefore non-urgent in terms of substance”.

“I do not assign responsibility to any of my associates because I consider that they rightly judged it not to be a document of substance, since it referred to actions during the period 2008-2012,” said Anastasiades.

The president also said that he clarified to Downer in no uncertain terms that “any new round of talks will not begin from the point they ended in 2012”.
“Additionally, I clarified that any proposals tabled by the Greek Cypriot side but rejected by the majority of political forces and people in no way bind me and are discarded,” he said.

In his pre-election campaign, Anastasiades pledged he would handle any peace talks on the Cyprus problem in cooperation with the National Council, and he would appoint a negotiator to represent him in the talks.

The president confirmed as much yesterday, noting that the National Council will meet on June 15 where he will present comprehensive proposals for a new upgraded Council, the appointment of a negotiator, working groups and experts, the preparation of a comprehensive framework of proposals, and the new procedure which must be agreed before the start of new talks.

Responding to criticism by AKEL spokesman Giorgos Loucaides that the president had been caught telling fibs, government spokesman Christos Stylianides there was no point adding any further comment to what the president had already said: “Besides, the president had no reason whatsoever to conceal from the political leadership a document containing a historical account of the period under former president Mr Demetris Christofias”.

Regarding tomorrow’s much maligned dinner to be hosted at the residence of UN Special Representative Lisa Buttenheim in the buffer zone, Downer told reporters the two leaders, himself and Buttenheim would be joined by their spouses, along with an interpreter for Eroglu “because he can speak some English, but he doesn’t speak a great deal of English”.

The dinner will be the first meeting between the two community leaders since Anastasiades’ election. It was originally proposed by Eroglu for April but the UN decided it would probably work better if they host it.

Anastasiades had threatened not to turn up unless UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon could provide assurances that the dinner would not turn political, arguing that he did not want to enter into substance on the peace talks until economic conditions stabilise, following the Eurogroup’s devastating decision to ‘bail-in’ the island’s two biggest banks using depositor’s money.

He never got Ban’s personal assurance on the matter, but the UN chief’s director of office did speak with the Cypriot diplomat in New York in a manner that appeared to provide some form of satisfaction to Anastasiades.

Asked yesterday if the dinner marks the beginning of peace talks, Downer said “that’s not the intention”.

He added: “The main thing is to get the preparatory work done and done properly”, adding “the two sides obviously have to do that”.

Downer said the UN has not set a date for the resumption of the talks, noting that Anastasiades thinks the preparatory work could be completed sometime between September and October.

Asked to comment on a letter sent by Anastasiades to Ban where the president bemoaned Downer’s alleged efforts to politicise tomorrow’s dinner, Downer said he did not write the letter so he can’t make any comments.

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