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US has increased interest in seeing resumption of Cyprus talks

President Anastasiades with US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Eric Rubin

By Stefanos Evripidou 

THE UNITED States has an increased interest in seeing the resumption of peace talks, President Nicos Anastasiades said yesterday after meeting with a senior US diplomat in Nicosia.

Anastasiades met US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Eric Rubin at the Presidential Palace where the two reportedly discussed the peace process, wider energy collaboration in the region and Cyprus’ new role as a factor of stability in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Maritime Cyprus 2013 conference, Anastasiades said his meeting with the US official was a follow-up to the recent meeting he had in Washington with US Vice President Joe Biden.

“And of course it demonstrates the increased interest of the US in efforts to resume a new round of Cyprus talks,” he said.

The talks are due to start in October but no date has been set. The appointed negotiators of the two communities, Osman Ertug and Andreas Mavroyiannis, are currently working on preparing a joint declaration to be issued when the two leaders finally meet to launch the start of talks.

However, UN Special Adviser Alexander Downer acknowledged last week that there was a “gap” in the positions of the two sides on the content of the declaration.

According to reports, the Greek Cypriots want the declaration to clarify the basis of the talks and the methodology of the process.

As such, they want to see a holistic approach taken to the negotiations, where all aspects of a solution are on the table at the same time. The Turkish Cypriots are happy to continue with the process started five years ago where governance, EU affairs and the economy are negotiated first and then property, security and territory with the latter decided in an international conference including Turkey.

Turkish Cypriot ‘foreign minister’ Ozdil Nami was quoted in the Turkish Cypriot press saying he hoped to see the talks start this month and end next March, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the Cyprus problem.

The Greek Cypriots are, at least officially, not open to setting timeframes for the talks and want them to go on as long as they are useful and end when they are not.

Anastasiades has also called for the EU to appoint a senior figure to participate in the talks, to ensure that the solution worked out is in full alignment with EU laws, values and principles and Cyprus’ existing responsibilities as an EU member state. So far, this proposal has yet to find fertile ground within the UN.

The president’s call for Turkey to make a big gesture to give the talks impetus, like returning Varosha, has also been rejected by Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots who say Varosha will be discussed as part of a comprehensive solution.

Anastasiades’ efforts to open lines of communication directly with Ankara have borne fruit, however, with the foreign ministers of Turkey and Greece agreeing on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly last month to host Mavroyiannis and Ertug in Ankara and Athens respectively once the talks get underway.

Downer met separately and jointly with Ertug and Mavroyiannis yesterday before hosting a dinner for the two. He will meet with them again tomorrow in an effort to iron out their differences over the drafting of a joint declaration which will unlock the door to a new round of peace talks.

Rubin also met with Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu and his negotiator Osman Ertug yesterday. The meeting lasted an hour.

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