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President to address the people (Updated)

The two leaders at dinner on Thursday night, their first meeting since talks broke down on November 22

President Nicos Anastasiades will brief Greek Cypriots in a televised address on Friday evening over the decision to resume talks with the Turkish Cypriot community, it was announced.

According to a statement from the president’s office, the address will be broadcast at 8pm.

It followed a dinner on Thursday when the two sides decided that intensified talks will resume immediately with a crucial conference involving guarantor powers scheduled for January 12.

Following the agreement, Anastasiades said that meetings would take place on January 9, 10 and 11 in Geneva. On January 11, the leaders will present maps on the territorial aspect of the solution, followed by a conference with the guarantor powers and any other involved parties on January 12.

In statements at the Presidential Palace after he returned from a dinner with Akinci, hosted by the UN Special Advisor Espen Barth Eide and lasting more than four hours, he said that following a productive discussion which reviewed both developments and problems encountered in the talks, they had agreed to resume them.
Thursday night’s dinner was the first meeting between Anastasiades and Akinci since negotiations broke down in Switzerland on November 22 over disagreements on territory.

Anastasiades said that from now until January 9, the talks would be intensified and aim at bridging existing disagreements. He said discussions would be on all six chapters of the Cyprus issue in an interdependent manner to reach a final stage that led either to a successful outcome or, if that could not be achieved, then each side would know the course to be followed.

He said he was determined, and had seen the same determination from the Turkish Cypriot side as well, to create fertile ground to reach a solution.

During the three-day meeting in Geneva, he said, there was great room to agree on the majority of the issues that benefited both communities.

The meal, held in the UN protected area, was attended by the two leaders, Eide, UN Special Representative Elizabeth Spehar and the negotiators of the two sides, Andreas Mavroyiannis and Ozdil Nami.

Speaking after meeting the two leaders earlier in the day, Eide explained the significance of just how far the two leaders had come in the negotiations before they reached deadlock in Mont Pelerin, Switzerland on November 22.

“In the entire history of the Cyprus talks we have never had a situation where the two leaders, whoever they were at the time, were ready to directly negotiate territory in the way they are now,” Eide said after talks with Anastasiades. “And it’s a painful thing because it’s painful both for those who lost lives in the past and lost places and those people who live in the places today.”

The UN official said he had detected a strong desire from both sides to return to the negotiating table.

“In the conversations over the last days I feel that ‘slowly, slowly’ as we say in Cyprus we are moving forward and I think that within a reasonably short time we will be able to announce more about what is going to happen in the very near future when it comes to the talks,” Eide said.

His wish was realised last night with the announcement that talks would resume.

The UN advisor, however, voiced concern over the developments outside the talks where he saw a deterioration of trust in society and a hardening of positions.

He urged people not to jump to conclusions “because these issues are difficult and small setbacks happen and when we are back on track we are back on track.”

Eide also made an appeal to the media to be aware of the role it has in fomenting the sense of “my side is always right and the other side is always wrong.”

In most cases that is not exactly the full story, he said, adding that people should recognise this was complicated for all parties.

During the day, Anastasiades also spoke on the phone with US Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

The conversation, disclosed on Twitter by government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides, took place around 6pm.

Anastasiades and Pence discussed the Cyprus problem and Cyprus-US bilateral relations, according to the tweet.

During the call, Pence relayed US President-elect Donald Trump’s intention to support efforts to reach a settlement on Cyprus.

The new US administration was looking forward to a further strengthening of relations with Cyprus, Pence also said.

Trump will be sworn in as America’s 45th president on January 20.

Also on Thursday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan spoke on the phone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, where among other issues they discussed the need for a fair and permanent solution to the Cyprus issue.

Meanwhile, the US deputy assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs, Jonathan Cohen, is on the island for contacts with various officials.

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