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Mavroyiannis says goodbye to negotiating for now as he heads for New York

Andreas Mavroyiannis

Andreas Mavroyiannis may on Wednesday have performed his last duties as chief negotiator for the Greek Cypriot side in the reunification talks, as he is set to leave the island to step up his campaign for the position of President of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

On Wednesday Mavroyiannis held what was probably his final meeting with his Turkish Cypriot counterpart Ozdil Nami before departing for New York, where the UNGA will next month be voting to elect its new President.

Reports said Mavroyiannis’ meeting with Nami was brief, with the two men mainly discussing what had transpired in Istanbul this week – a diplomatic incident at the World Humanitarian Summit where the Turkish Cypriot leader was issued a last-minute invite to a dinner, prompting President Nicos Anastasiades to cancel this Friday’s scheduled meeting with Mustafa Akinci.

Matters were up in the air, as it was not clear mid-week when the negotiations would resume. Anastasiades – said to be angered at the Istanbul incident – is currently on an official visit to Athens.

At any rate, Mavroyiannis’ departure opens the question of his replacement as chief negotiator as the talks enter a crucial stage – the chapters of territory and guarantees.

Over the past few weeks local media have been suggesting that government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides may step into Mavroyiannis’ shoes, with Christodoulides’ position in turn going to DISY spokesman Prodromos Prodromou.

Christodoulides could not be reached for comment.

Sources close to the government hinted that the chief negotiator’s position could even be left vacant, at least for the short-term, with President Anastasiades directly taking over.

This was hardly the first time the president took over the talks without help from a negotiator, they added.

But another source, who likewise requested anonymity, told the Cyprus Mail that Toumazos Tselepis – a member of the negotiating team during the previous AKEL administration – was a distinct candidate for Greek Cypriot chief negotiator.

The same source noted however that the issue of Mavroyiannis’ replacement could be rendered moot should the diplomat’s ambitions to become UNGA President come to naught.

The UNGA votes for its new president on June 13.

Mavroyiannis is running for the post against Peter Thomson, Fiji’s permanent representative to the UN.

In April 2013, the government nominated Mavroyiannis, then ambassador and permanent secretary of the foreign ministry, as its candidate for the post of President of the 71st session of the General Assembly.

Due to a system of rotation, the UNGA President for the 2016-2017 term will hail from the Asia-Pacific Group, which includes Cyprus.

The presidency rotates annually between Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin American and Caribbean, and Westeran Europe and other states.

The President presides over the sessions of the General Assembly. He or she does not vote on UNGA decisions but has control over all other aspects of the discussions including time limitations for speakers, closure of the list of speakers, suspension and adjournment of debate, and ruling on points of order.

UNGA presidents have limited power to promote policies at the UN, but the position, akin to speaker of the house for the world body’s 193 member states, carries considerable prestige.

But the lack of power has led to the presidency being taken up mostly by rather uninspiring and inexperienced routine diplomats.

The salary of UNGA presidents is paid by their own governments.

This salary is in addition to the privileges granted to all persons acting in the service of the UN or its Member States.

Under the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations (New York, February 13, 1946), “Officials of the United Nations shall: (a) be immune from legal process in respect of words spoken or written and all acts performed by them in their official capacity; (b) be-exempt from taxation on the salaries and emoluments paid to them by the United Nations.”

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