Cyprus Mail
Cyprus Cyprus Talks

Downer’s visit to the north irks Greek Cypriot side

Alexander Downer at the presidential palace in Nicosia

By Stefanos Evripidou

UN SPECIAL Adviser Alexander Downer once again found himself in hot water yesterday after the government issued a strong-worded demarche to the UN against his activities in the occupied north.

President Nicos Anastasiades instructed the foreign ministry to issue the demarche to the UN both here in Nicosia and at headquarters in New York after it transpired that Downer met with Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu at the Turkish ‘embassy’ in the north.

Deputy permanent secretary at the foreign ministry, Tasos Tzionis, yesterday issued the demarche to UN Special Representative in Cyprus Lisa Buttenheim regarding Downer’s visit to the Turkish ‘embassy’.

Anastasiades also instructed Cyprus’ permanent representative at the UN in New York to do the same at the UN Secretariat.

In the demarche, the Cyprus Republic expresses its “disappointment and deep dismay” for the location of last Saturday’s meeting. It condemns the act and highlights the seriousness of the fact the UN special adviser violated UN Security Council Resolutions on Cyprus, mainly 550 (1984), to which UN officials are bound.

In a sign that Downer was not helping through his actions, the demarche, according to a government statement, notes that the visit took place at a particularly critical time in the efforts of the president to resume fully-fledged talks.

Regardless of intent, Downer’s acts seriously undermine those efforts and negatively impact upon the president’s overall handling of the issue, said the statement, adding that the full consequences of his actions on the talks will continue to be evaluated.

This is not the first time Downer comes under fire for allegedly attempting to upgrade the status of the breakaway regime. When UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited Cyprus during the days of Demetris Christofias and Mehmet Ali Talat, Downer led Ban to the ‘presidential palace’ in the north for a meeting with Talat.

Fast forward to last Saturday afternoon, and the UN official met with Davutoglu at Turkey’s ‘embassy’ during a day of great uncertainty regarding the future of the Cyprus problem peace talks.

Downer might have avoided the hassle had he taken his flight home to Australia for Christmas as planned on Friday evening. Instead, he made a dramatic turnaround to continue efforts for agreement between the two sides on a joint declaration.

Talks took place late on Friday. The UN tabled a new draft proposal to the Greek Cypriot negotiating team which the latter were willing to discuss, after adding two of their own alterations to the text.

The UN decided the additions were not necessary, instead presenting their proposal to the Turkish Cypriot side.

With Davutoglu arriving on the island for a one-day visit to the occupied areas on Saturday, the UN team were hopeful that a deal could finally be clinched which would represent a historic breakthrough, with the joint communiqué going beyond a mere statement by defining in relative detail the main parameters of a Cyprus solution. In other words, as one source close to the talks put it, a new and defining High-Level Agreement, 34 years after the last one.

Through the convoluted and value-laden words injected into the text, the Greek Cypriots effectively got what they wanted, reference to single international personality, citizenship and sovereignty, while the Turkish Cypriots met their goals of guaranteeing the functioning of a federation, and not unitary state, with residual powers and internal citizenship assigned to each constituent state.

At the same time both sides still fear the other. The Greek Cypriots fear Turkish interference and/or future attempts at secession by the Turkish Cypriots while the latter don’t want the Greek Cypriots to act as their masters in a future reunified Cyprus.

Come Saturday and all eyes were on Davutoglu and his joint press conference with Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu but the message received was not the one hoped for.

Government spokesman Christos Stylianides said for three months the Greek Cypriots have taken a constructive approach to the “extreme and intransigent” positions of the Turkish Cypriots. They were hoping Davutoglu would provide a gentle push forward to the talks, but his comments effectively put a cork in efforts to resume fully-fledged negotiations, said the spokesman.

Anastasiades would not enter into talks just for the sake of it, he reiterated.

During intense diplomatic shuttling on Saturday afternoon, Downer went to meet Davutoglu in the north to discuss the latest UN draft proposal. The meeting took place at the Turkish ‘embassy’, where Turkey’s representative is based, and who many in the north half-jokingly refer to as the ‘governor’.

Davutoglu reportedly handed over the latest Turkish Cypriot proposal on the draft text to Downer.

According to Today’s Zaman a senior Turkish Cypriot official said the new initiative for Cyprus proposes a single representation in international platforms but joint sovereignty on the island that includes the rights of both Turkish and Greek Cypriots.

“With this formula, both sides will have equal rights and no side will have hegemony over the other side,” said the source, who described it as a “proposal of consensus”.

The Turkish Cypriot side now awaits a response from the Greek Cypriots to their counter-proposal, added the source.

Following his meeting with Downer, Davutoglu reportedly called Greek Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to discuss the peace talks.

Davutoglu has remained rather upbeat in public comments about the prospects for a solution, particularly in the Turkish press. Speaking after his visit to Athens on Friday, the Turkish FM said: “As long as Turkey and Greece share a common perspective, I am sure that this will pave the way for peace on the island.”

He added that Greece’s turn at the helm of the EU Presidency from January is seen as a big opportunity for Turkey.

It remains to be seen, however, whether the joint declaration will be approved as is, or whether either side still has the appetite to do business. Or, if Downer goes home and everyone calls it a day, a long one.

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