Cyprus Mail
Cyprus

‘We made sure dinner was just a social occasion’

UN Speical Adiser Alexander Downer welcomed the forthcoming meeting

By Poly Pantelides

THE GOVERNMENT has averted the possible politicisation of Thursday’s first encounter of the two leaders at a dinner hosted by the UN in the buffer zone, the spokesman said yesterday.

Christos Stylianides said steps taken to avert the dinner becoming a political occasion had been successful and the government was on track with preparations for peace talks to be launched in the autumn.

“There were indications that some people gave such importance and gravitas to the dinner so that it could symbolise the beginning of the (peace) process,” Stylianides added. Although he did not elaborate, it is well known the government was displeased with what it called attempts by UN Special Representative Alexander Downer to play up the dinner as a political event.

“We wanted to pre-empt this because no one knew where this would lead if it spiralled out of control,” said Stylianides.
Most of the Greek Cypriot media and the political leadership took issue with the dinner prior to the event, conflating it with the perceived threat that Greek Cypriots would be forced to accept a list of convergences reached between 2008 and 2012.

The convergences were documented in a lengthy UN report – also listing divergences – which President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu were given by Downer last month.

Greek Cypriot politicians – many already having declared Downer a persona non grata – accused the UN of trying to force them into unacceptable concessions.

Anastasiades – whose party is in coalition with hard-liners DIKO – even sent a letter to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on May 17 accusing Downer and his team of undermining his credibility and the prospect of resuming peace talks by creating political expectations surrounding the dinner.

The letter was immediately leaked to the media.

Stylianides assured a state broadcaster reporter that “nothing was agreed” and the dinner was a pleasant informal event, no more.

But former government spokesman with AKEL, Stefanos Stefanou, accused the government of generating drama “obviously for public relation reasons”.

There was no reason to generate conflict with the UN on matters “that could have been handled more carefully and seriously,” Stefanou said.

Head of EDEK and House president Yiannakis Omirou said there was no point in the dinner. Resolving the Cyprus problem had everything to do with forcing Turkey to stop its unlawful occupation since 1974 of the northern part of the island, and nothing to do with social events, Omirou said.

He also reiterated his view that Anastasiades should inform the UN Secretary-General that Downer must be replaced, and that the UN document listing “so-called convergences does not bind the Greek Cypriot side,” Omirou said.

The Greens also called for Downer’s replacement via a news statement made by Nicos Pavlides, who is part of their legal team.

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