Cyprus Mail
Cyprus Cyprus Talks

Clock ticks as Ban’s deadline looms

British Minister for Europe David Lidington met Nicos Anastasiades yesterday

By Stefanos Evripidou 

PRESIDENT NICOS Anastasiades will meet with under-fire UN Special Adviser Alexander Downer today at the Presidential Palace to discuss the peace talks, and the UN’s role in them, as the clock ticks towards Friday when the UN expects the two sides to come clear on whether talks will resume or not.

Downer and Anastasiades have much to discuss after UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last week called on the two community leaders to wrap up talks on a joint statement- or not- and reach agreement on a leaders’ meeting by Friday, before Downer leaves Cyprus again.

Ban’s message was very much seen as a response to constant grumbles from the Greek Cypriots over Downer’s role in the process. Reports suggested the Presidential Palace was not happy with the Australian’s contribution to efforts to enhance the EU’s role in the peace process, promote the return of Varosha as a confidence-building measure, or reach agreement on a joint statement.

Anastasiades has made agreement on a joint statement, clearly defining the desired outcome of talks, a precondition of entering into a new round of negotiations, which the Turkish Cypriots broke off in the first half of 2012, citing Cyprus’ EU Presidency.

For his part, the UNSG said last week he has full confidence in Downer, and wants to know by Friday if the two leaders are going to meet. In doing so, the UN practically made the Greek Cypriot demand for a joint statement of secondary importance.

Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides yesterday did little to hide his frustration with the UN in an interview with Sigma television, where he bemoaned the fact that until Ban’s message last Friday, progress was being made with the Turkish Cypriot side on a joint statement.

He effectively accused the UN of messing things up.

It remains to be seen whether the two sides will reach agreement by Friday, and if not, what the UN will do in response.

In the run-up, Downer met yesterday with the two negotiators, Andreas Mavroyiannis and Osman Ertug, and will meet Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu separately today.

Eroglu yesterday said his negotiating team gave their last counter proposal to the Greek Cypriots on Monday, implying that if this fails, the whole effort to agree on a joint statement must end.

In a statement that will surely add to the pressure on the Greek Cypriots, Eroglu called on Anastasiades to sit at the negotiating table and start talks from where they left off.

During a press conference in Brussels yesterday, Turkish EU Minister Egemen Bagis also referred to the peace process, saying that Anastasiades was an admirable leader who could make a few changes to the Annan plan, overwhelmingly rejected by the Greek Cypriots in 2004, and take it to referenda by spring 2014.

The Cypriot president yesterday met with the ambassadors of China and France, completing his talks with the representatives of all five permanent members of the UN Security Council, in an effort to explain his insistence on clarifying the basis of a solution before engaging in a process that the Greek Cypriot side cannot afford to see fail. He also met with the Greek ambassador.

Anastasiades appears to have doubts as to Eroglu’s intentions to reach a mutually agreed solution, probably enhanced yesterday when Eroglu was quoted by Kibris newspaper saying that a reunified federal Cyprus will be formed by “two founding states” which will have sovereign rights and ability to grant internal citizenship.

British Minister for Europe David Lidington also met with Anastasiades yesterday, after which he congratulated the president on the leadership shown in tackling the economic and banking crisis.
“And he showed leadership again when it comes to moves towards a settlement,” said Lidington.

The British minister argued that a solution was in everybody’s interests.

“That would send a signal of confidence to international investors all around the world that Cyprus is the place, the united Republic, in which to do business once again and the chances for investment and jobs coming in will be increased.”

He called on the two leaders to make the necessary compromises to get a joint declaration agreed and serious talks underway.

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