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Cyprus Cyprus Talks

Peace possible, but issues remain, says Eide 

Espen Barth Eide with Lisa Buttenheim after briefing the UN Security Council in New York

By Angelos Anastasiou

PEACE in Cyprus is possible and much progress has been made, but there is also a long way to go, the United Nations chief’s special advisor Espen Barth Eide said on Friday, following his two-hour briefing to the members of the Security Council on the state of negotiations for a settlement of the Cyprus problem.

Eide and UN Special Representative Lisa Buttenheim presented their reports to the 15-member council, all of whom “took the floor and praised the work that is going on”.

“The general sense was that this is a historic opportunity that has to be grasped, and it has to be grasped in such a way that it is genuinely owned by the leaders who are in charge of the talks,” Eide said.

Despite difficulties, Eide said, a solution is “more than possible”, though the last part is always the trickiest.

“We see the contours of a possible settlement,” he said.

“In some fronts, the progress has been quite remarkable. But the last part is always the most difficult. The weeks and months ahead will be about dealing with these essential core questions that remain unresolved.”

On the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), Buttenheim said that, in an “early process of thinking ahead”, she has asked the UN for an additional 28 troops over the existing 860, which “we consider a very modest increase”.

“But I would say, yes, that we would need an increase, assuming the two sides want us to be there [post-solution] – for a while, and then hopefully UNFICYP would get smaller in the future,” Buttenheim said.

Eide added that the UN Security Council “will have a role to play” if a final solution is agreed.

“It will be a different role, and the council at that time will be called upon to define the parameters of a future UN mission,” Eide said.

Commenting on his optimism over the prospects of a settlement, the UN emissary urged caution.

“I do think that peace is possible, and that within the parameters of the leader-led process a solution can be found,” he said.

“I also do not want to create the impression that it’s just around the corner, because some of the essential issues for both communities are still to be finally tackled. But as I have said to the council, there is willingness in all relevant quarters to make this possible.”

On next week’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to which both President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci have been invited, triggering much press speculation over possible back-channel diplomacy, Eide denied any such plans.

“What is known from the programme so far is that the two leaders will have a joint meeting with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and myself,” Eide said.

“No secret back-channel meetings will be held – not everything that is reported in the press is always correct.”

But, he added, “a lot of people will be in the same place, and that’s the nature of the undertaking”.

Asked to comment on Turkish Cypriots’ concern over “a repeat of pre-1974 history”, Eide replied that it relates to the “sense of security in the broader sense”.

“The solution has to be agreed, implementable, and sustainable,” he said.

“It has to take away the imperfections of the system that broke down between the outbreak of inter-communal strife and what happened in 1974. We have to learn from that history, and a lot of focus in the talks is on what we call ‘deadlock-preventing mechanisms’. That’s perfectly doable.”

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