By Stefanos Evripidou
The UN yesterday denied reports that its special adviser on Cyprus Alexander Downer was quitting his part-time job on the island to take up a key posting as an Australian ambassador in one of the world’s major capitals.
Following repeated “hints” dropped recently by President Nicos Anastasiades that Downer no longer enjoys the trust of the majority of the Greek Cypriot parties and people, press reports yesterday surfaced that the Australian was about to throw in the towel after five years working on the Cyprus problem to take up an ambassador’s posting.
Local daily Politis cited multiple sources saying that the Australian government plans to appoint him as High Commissioner in a key capital while Turkish Cypriot paper Afrika reported that Downer arrived in Cyprus on Wednesday for a “farewell visit”.
The biggest selling Turkish Cypriot paper, Kibris, cited sources saying that the reason for his departure was the recent criticism levelled against the UN facilitator by Anastasiades, who accused Downer of bias. This was the “last straw”, said the source.
Kibris reported that Downer has been appointed to the post of Australian High Commissioner to London.
The Australian press reported on the same issue last June, saying that should the Liberal Party win the general elections in September 2013, Downer would be considered to take the post of ambassador in Washington.
The Liberals did win the election, but nothing further was heard.
The current Australian ambassador to Washington Kim Beazley is a former leader of the Australian Labor Party who took up his appointment to the US in February 2010, meaning his replacement is due.
The Australian High Commissioner to London, meanwhile, Mike Rann, who served as a Labor Party leader in South Australia for 17 years, only took his post December 2012.
However, asked to comment on the reports, UNFICYP spokesman Michel Bonnardeaux said Downer only recently renewed his contract with the UN.
“Yes, I have seen the press reports (yesterday), I have asked Mr Downer and he told me that his contract has just been renewed (for another six months),” said Bonnardeaux.
The UN spokesman said Downer did not plan on meeting with the two leaders while in Cyprus. The Australian is due to head off to New York today ahead of next Wednesday’s briefing to the UN Security Council (UNSC) on the peace talks.
According to sources, his contract was signed just three days ago.
The Cyprus Mail has learnt, however, that Downer did take to heart recent criticism against him and decided to snub Anastasiades by cancelling a meeting they had scheduled for last Monday.
He has decided not to wait around for a meeting with the two community leaders, instead leaving Cyprus, to return when there are serious signs that progress can be made.
In the meantime, Downer has to decide what to tell the UNSC regarding the unsuccessful efforts to agree on a joint declaration and resume fully-fledged peace talks.
Each side is blaming the other for the failure to agree on a joint declaration. One source close to the talks said the two sides came so close to achieving a major agreement but appear to be falling back to the failsafe position of failure, leaving the talks in limbo.
Speaking to British members of the House of Commons and House of Lords yesterday, Anastasiades said that the Greek Cypriots’ latest draft text submitted last month on December 18 showed his side’s good will and constructive stance to meet the concerns of the Turkish Cypriot side.
“I can only attribute the rejection of my latest draft to the absence of the vision of reunification on the part of our interlocutors. While I was aspiring to a meaningful negotiation in order to reunite the country, the Turkish Cypriot side was elaborating the terms of an eventual separation,” he said.
“If the process is to stand any chance of success, it must start with a basic common understanding of where we want to go and how we can best get there. Hence, there should be no space for ambiguity or ‘creative thinking’ around the notion of sovereignty,” he added.
For his part, speaking from Ankara where he visited the Turkish leadership yesterday, Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu said right was on his side.
Eroglu met with Turkish President Abdullah Gul, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Cicek to discuss the Cyprus problem, the immoveable property commission (IPC) and the economy in the north.
Speaking after their meeting, Cicek called on the Greek Cypriots to accept the hand of friendship offered by the Turkish Cypriots, show the necessary good will and recognise that a Turkish state exists in the north of the island.