By George Psyllides
THE much-anticipated meeting between President Nicos Anastasaides and Alexander Downer to ‘clear the air’ yesterday saw the Greek Cypriot side talk tough and the UN Special Envoy reject the idea that an ultimatum had been issued.
According to government spokesman Christos Stylianides the Greek Cypriot side would not enter talks without a joint declaration that would include the basic principles of a settlement.
“The president made it clear to the UN Secretary-General’s special envoy that he will not participate in talks for the sakes of talks if there is no joint declaration beforehand that will include the basic principles of a settlement as defined by the UN resolutions,” Stylianides said.
The meeting had been initially scheduled for 12pm but was pushed back as discussions between the UN and the Turkish Cypriot side for the joint statement were continuing.
“The President deemed it would be pointless to have the scheduled meeting and thus requested that the meeting take place in the afternoon, to give the UN time to exhaust their efforts with the Turkish Cypriot side,” Stylianides said earlier in the day.
The UN said discussions on the declaration continued – albeit slowly — expressing hope that the two sides would come to an agreement.
“The work for a joint declaration is going on… I think I have made the point before today, that it’s moving ahead, it’s inching ahead, it’s not leaping ahead but it’s inching ahead and obviously we hope that an agreement could be reached as soon as possible,” Downer said after meeting Anastasiades.
Their meeting came on the heels of Anastasiades’ open criticism of Downer on Saturday, prompted by a statement attributed to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Ban spoke of a limited window of opportunity to achieve a settlement, urging a quick resolution of outstanding issues so that talks could get underway. “The Secretary-General expressed concern that a continuing deadlock over a joint communiqué has hampered a return to talks,” a note said. Ban said he hoped the impasse would be overcome when Downer returned to the island from November 4-8.
This was interpreted by the Greek Cypriot side as an ultimatum, with Downer yesterday rushing to dispel such concerns.
“The SG didn’t say that. I appreciate it has been interpreted this way but the SG was simply alluding to the fact.. it wasn’t the SG it was a spokesman of the SG… that I was coming back here this week and he really wanted to see the joint declaration,” Downer said. “But this doesn’t mean that when the end of this week arrives and the joint declaration hasn’t been agreed, it will lead to some other consequence.”
The UN official added: “… this is not an ultimatum, there is no ultimatum.”
Ban also expressed his full confidence in Downer, backing his special envoy at a time when Greek Cypriot politicians were asking for his removal.
Anastasiades himself signalled on Saturday that he could withdraw his confidence.
“It should be understood that trust towards some people is given or taken away if they prove they are not worthy of our trust through specific actions,” the president said. “Let no one live under the delusion they will gain the laurels of success if they think they can lead us to talks for the sake of talks through blackmail.”
Downer avoided giving a straight answer when asked yesterday whether he thought he had the President’s trust.
“The UN will do all it can, consistent with the Security Council resolutions, to contribute towards and achieving a solution to the Cyprus problem,” he said. “And I spent quite a few years on this myself, and at this stage the challenge is to get this joint declaration concluded. The SG accepts the strong determination of President Anastasiades to achieve a solution here and I know he is working very hard at it. It is not about me.”
Downer gave more or less the same answer when asked ‘when’ rather than not ‘if’ he would resign.
“I find this a very interesting job, but it is not really about me, this is about Cypriots and about trying to ensure that at this stage the joint declaration can be agreed and so every effort is being out into that, not to talk about myself.”