Cyprus Mail
Cyprus Cyprus Talks

President’s silence fuels ‘Downer row’

UN envoy Alexander Downer returns to Cyprus on Monday

By Stefanos Evripidou

THE UNITED Nations team in Cyprus once again denied press reports yesterday that UN Special Adviser Alexander Downer sent either a letter or email or any form of communication to the European Commission opposing the Greek Cypriot request for greater EU involvement in the peace talks.

Uncorroborated reports initially surfaced saying that Downer had sent a letter to Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso saying that enhancing the EU’s role in the talks might not actually help the process.

These were refuted by the UN in a strong-worded statement released on Tuesday, saying that disseminating incorrect information at the stage of the peace talks was an “unwelcome distraction”.

Asked to respond to an article in yesterday’s Alithia, which cited diplomatic sources saying the letter to Barroso came in the form of an email, UN spokesman Michel Bonnardeaux said: “There is no email nor letter or any other such communication to that effect.”

President Nicos Anastasiades refused to put the rumours to bed, instead hinting that relations with the UN Good Offices, and with Downer, have taken a turn for the worse.

Asked to comment on the initial report of a letter sent by Downer to Brussels, the president said: “No comment.”

When called to comment on the UN’s rebuttal, he replied: “Again, no comment.”

Speaking to the Cyprus Mail, diplomatic sources have questioned the reasoning behind the fuss kicked up over correspondence which the UN is adamant did not take place.

One source said there appeared to be a coordinated effort by some to discredit Downer. Since Anastasiades took power, the Australian has come under heavy criticism, first for allegedly trying to add substance to a social dinner arranged for the leaders of the two communities, an allegation the UN vehemently denied. And now, for a letter or email supposedly sent to Barroso, the existence of which, the UN outright rejects.

Another source said the president’s ire might have been prodded when Anastasiades met Barroso in Brussels, and the EU official reportedly told him that Downer had expressed some reservation about greater EU involvement.

If the government does have any gripes with Downer, he’ll have a chance to find out for himself when he arrives on the island next Monday for a new round of meetings. He will meet Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu separately as well as the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot negotiators, Andreas Mavroyiannis and Osman Ertug, respectively.

According to Cyprus News Agency, prior to his arrival, Downer will meet UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York.

In the meantime, both negotiators continue to lock horns over the wording of a joint statement which Anastasiades says has to lock down the basis of the talks and the methodology that will be used to reach the desired result.

The Greek Cypriot negotiating team has made agreement on a joint statement a precondition for the resumption of talks.

A date also remains to be set for Mavroyiannis and Ertug to visit Ankara and Athens respectively.

Anastasiades yesterday briefed party leaders at the Presidential Palace on the latest developments in the Cyprus problem and, specifically, his recent visit to Brussels.

Speaking after the briefing, government spokesman Christos Stylianides said the negotiations on a joint statement were “important and tough”, expressing hope they would conclude as soon as possible.
“The goal is to have the best conditions so that the talks start right and conclude with the desired result,” he said.

Asked about reports of Downer’s alleged interference on the EU’s role in the peace talks, Stylianides refrained from commenting.

He did say that he expected in the coming days a date to be set for the visits of the two negotiators to Athens and Ankara.

According to Stylianides, the party leaders also discussed with the president the legal team that will support Mavroyiannis during yesterday’s meeting.

“Names have been put forward,” some of which have already been mentioned in the press, he noted.

Coming out of the meeting, AKEL leader Andros Kyprianou said the opposition party believes the government has wrongly handled peace talks to date but that he wanted to give the president a grace period to handle the matter.

“I respect the president’s request to have some time to handle these issues,” said Kyprianou.

Coalition party DIKO leader Marios Garoyian backed the president’s handling so far. He accused Downer of being “untrustworthy” and “impartial” and of failing to act as the true guardian of UN resolutions.
EDEK leader Yiannakis Omirou said it was clear the talks had reached a stumbling block over the insistence of the Turkish Cypriot side on two separate states. “I don’t have to say it, Mr Eroglu says it every day.”

Greens leader Giorgos Perdikis said he was disappointed after hearing what the president had to say. “On the appointment of a European representative I would say that (the European) stance is very disappointing,” he said, noting that the EU is basing its positions on Turkish needs.

He also accused Downer of being “completely inappropriate” for the job and described his presence in the talks as “dangerous” to the interests of all Cypriots “because he can’t pass on messages in the correct manner”.

Meanwhile, the AKEL leadership met with a delegation from the Republic Turkish Party (CTP), after which the two released a joint statement, without too many complications, saying: “AKEL and CTP agree that the talks must resume at the leaders level without any delay, respecting the basis of the negotiations as described in the joint statements between Christofias and Talat and the convergences achieved so far and focusing on the remaining issues.

“We believe an important window of opportunity exists to reach a comprehensive settlement which must be used effectively.”

Related Posts

Guards to be placed in schools in wake of attacks

George Psyllides

Coronavirus: Specifics issued for latest measures  

Nick Theodoulou

Eight-day remand for suspect in case of missing Russian women

Gina Agapiou

Man with knife arrested outside GSP as Pope said mass

Gina Agapiou

Pensioner who was attacked two months ago has died

Gina Agapiou

Two days of fun(gi) at mushroom festival

Eleni Philippou

1 comment

Comments are closed.