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Cyprus

Government says UN changing rules of the game

President Nicos Anastasiades met with British High Commissioner Matthew Kidd at the palace yesterday

By Stefanos Evripidou

THE GOVERNMENT has called on the United Nations to stick to its own resolutions and create prospects for a meeting between the two leaders for substantive peace talks.

President Nicos Anastasiades yesterday met with the ambassadors of Russia and the UK to shore up support for his handling of the peace talks and counter pressure implicitly applied by the UN to bypass preconditions for the start of talks set by the Greek Cypriot side.

The president will also meet with the ambassadors of China and France today, while last Friday he met with the US ambassador, covering all five permanent members (P5) of the Security Council.

Relations between the UN and the government are at their worst level in years, after UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon effectively called on the two sides to set a date for a leaders’ meeting by this Friday.

The Greek Cypriot negotiating team has made agreement on a joint statement – which clearly sets out the basis for talks, the process to be followed and the desired outcome – as a precondition before the two leaders can meet.

However, preparations on a joint statement have not been easy as negotiators stumble over key disagreements on the form a federal Cyprus would take.

The Greek Cypriots are prepared to wait it out until the obstacles are overcome, while the Turkish Cypriots say they are ready to start now, putting the Greek Cypriots in a corner somewhat as pressure mounts for the two sides to engage in substantive talks.

Ban called for the two sides to wrap up the preamble by Friday, when UN Special Adviser Alexander Downer is due to leave Cyprus. Having left New York at the weekend, the Australian is currently in Cyprus for talks with both sides. He is due to meet Anastasiades tomorrow for what many expect to be a rather loud conversation.

Anastiades has failed to put to bed, and some say even encouraged, rumours that Downer is working to undermine Greek Cypriot efforts to prepare the groundwork for a successful conclusion of the peace talks.

Speaking last Friday after Downer’s meeting with Ban in New York, the UNSG’s spokesman said Ban was concerned that efforts to agree on a joint statement were hampering the restart of peace talks. He pointed to the “limited window of opportunity” for a solution, noting that the last UN Security Council Resolution on July 30, 2013, had foreseen talks to resume in October.

For Anastasiades, the cherry on the cake was when the spokesman expressed Ban’s “full confidence” in Downer.

In a sign that Anastasiades would not back down, government spokesman Christos Stylianides said yesterday that the president would reiterate to all P5 representatives that agreement on a joint statement “which will define clearly and without any trace of doubt the basic principles for the solution of the Cyprus problem” must be reached.

Stylianides highlighted that the principles the Greek Cypriots are talking about have been repeatedly recorded in UN Security Council decisions on Cyprus.

Regarding the recent UN resolution referred to by Ban, the spokesman said it also refers to resolution 1251 regarding the framework of a Cyprus solution, with specific reference to a federal Cyprus with a single sovereignty, single international personality and single citizenship. The same resolution also points out the need to agree on confidence-building measures (CBMs).

“It is self-evident that what is expected from the United Nations is to promote the implementation of the relevant decisions and resolutions of the Security Council, as the Charter of the Organisation foresees,” he said, adding that the Greek Cypriot proposals are “fully consistent” with the above, without ignoring the rights of the Turkish Cypriots.

“We hope that the United Nations will meet their obligations as these emanate from the above resolutions, in order to create the prospect for the meeting of the two leaders and for a dialogue on substance, so that we are led to a solution of the Cyprus problem shortly,” said Stylianides.

Regarding the growing friction between Anastasiades and Downer, he said, “everything that has transpired will be discussed at the private meeting” they will have tomorrow.

Ban’s setting of a timeframe appeared to garner support for Anastasiades from the political parties who rallied behind him against what most saw as UN “blackmail” orchestrated by Downer.

Only AKEL voiced some criticism of the president’s handling, arguing in favour of returning to the joint statements agreed in 2008 between former president Demetris Christofias and Eroglu’s predecessor Mehmet Ali Talat.

DISY leader Averof Neophytou did not come out in direct conflict with the UN but did raise doubts as to whether Ban’s comments helped towards achieving progress.

He argued that the Greek Cypriots were not looking to play an “endless blame game”.

“It must be made clear to everyone that our only goal is substantive dialogue which will bring negotiations to a successful conclusion, to the benefit of all Cypriots, and in the interests of peace and stability in the region,” he said.

Neophytou also questioned the trustworthiness of Ban’s adviser on Cyprus, Downer.

“But to achieve the right solution, the credibility of all is critical, especially the UN representative sent here, under whose auspices the talks are being conducted,” he added.



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