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Cyprus Cyprus Talks

‘Downer has to decide: has he been useful the past five years?’

Alexander Downer has lost the confidence of the vast majority of the political parties said President Anastasiades

By Stefanos Evripidou 

The UN’s special adviser on Cyprus, Alexander Downer, has lost the confidence of the majority of the parties and society, raising doubts as to whether he has anything to offer the peace process, President Nicos Anastasiades said yesterday.

In a televised interview on Antenna TV, the president gave the impression that Downer, who is due on the island tomorrow, has little to offer the stuttering peace process, and strongly suggested he lacked objectivity.

Asked to comment on the letter Anastasiades recently sent to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the president said he recorded in the letter his “insistence that the UN must finally realise their role is implementation, not interpretation or misinterpretation, of UN resolutions.”

When the interviewer suggested the president was referring specifically to Downer, Anastasiades said: “He has to decide how useful he’s been the last five years… whether his actions are consistent with the role of a special adviser.”

“I have stressed many times the need for objectivity, and if someone doesn’t have that, and has lost the trust of the two sides, or one of the sides, he has to decide in what way he can be useful, if at all,” he added.

Asked if the UN official has lost the confidence of the Greek Cypriot side, Anastasiades said: “What I do know is that Mr Downer has lost the confidence of the vast majority of the political parties and society. His unfortunate actions and regrettable statements have created distrust regarding his objectivity and ability to contribute.”

Anastasiades accused the Australian of holding the belief that if he visits Cyprus every now and then for a couple of days, he would be in a position to exercise pressure either on one side or the other.

The president also revealed that following Wednesday’s National Council meeting, he also sent a letter to Downer raising a few points.

The UN special adviser is due to meet with Anastasiades and the Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu separately on Monday, as well as hold meetings with the two sides’ negotiators in an effort to get talks started.

Efforts to agree on a joint declaration, with significant content on the basis of negotiations, specifically on the key issue of sovereignty, have stalled after the two sides were unable to agree on the text.

The last draft text was sent by the Greek Cypriot side via the UN to the Turkish Cypriot side which rejected it on December 27, without making a counter-proposal.

In his letter to Ban, Anastasiades suggested a shorter joint declaration, which would include reference to UN Security Council Resolution 1251, to get things moving – a proposal that may not be so easily welcomed by the Turkish Cypriot side.

Press reports have also suggested the UN chief might invite the two leaders to New York to get negotiations back in full swing.

However, Turkish Cypriot ‘foreign minister’ Ozdil Nami, whose comments often reflect a somewhat contradictory approach to that of Eroglu, has repeatedly stated that the two sides are very close to agreement, with only minor differences separating them from finalising a substantial joint declaration.

Speaking to Antenna, Anastasiades acknowledged that “without doubt, things are getting complicated,” particularly given the latest political crisis in Turkey.

However, even before the crisis in Ankara, the efforts of the Americans and others to help the process through consultations with Turkey failed to yield results, he noted.

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