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UN Secretary-General appoints official to revive reunification talks

European People’s Party, Christodoulides, Brussels, UN envoy
Christodoulides, at the Summit of the European People’s Party

The United Nations Secretary-General has picked the person who will act as envoy to Cyprus with the task of kickstarting stalled reunification talks, it emerged on Thursday.

The reveal came from President Nikos Christodoulides, speaking to the media in Brussels where he is attending the European Council summit.

“Last night we were informed by the UN about the Secretary-General’s decision to proceed with the appointment of a specific personality, who will undertake to look into the prospects for the resumption of the talks from where they were suspended,” Christodoulides said.

He added that the UN has sought and received the consent of Nicosia regarding the choice of individual as envoy.

For his part and having earlier stated he would “never” accept such an envoy, Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar subsequently softened his stance.

In late September Tatar told a Turkish Cypriot newspaper: “There could, under certain conditions, be a personal envoy who would work directly with the UN secretary-general.”

But he qualified: “I told [UN Secretary-General Antonio] Guterres that we are very opposed to the appointment of the special representative to implement Security Council decisions, to make reports, and to impose a federal solution onto us.”

Official negotiations on the Cyprus issue have not taken place since July 2017 when talks collapsed in Crans Montana, Switzerland.

Meantime also on Thursday, the UN’s Special Representative to Cyprus Colin Stewart stressed the need for trust to be built up between the two communities.

Stewart was speaking at a workshop in Nicosia organised by the Cyprus Peace and Dialogue Centre, the Glafcos Clerides Institute and the Next Century Foundation.

The workshop focused on the sustainability of water and energy resources, and waste management in Cyprus in the context of a peaceful and lasting settlement on the island.

“The sustainable building of trust is not something that happens only on the level of political leaders – it must also be built from the ground up,” Stewart told attendees.

He said meetings between people and experts from both sides to discuss environmental issues can help do away with some of the barriers on the island, “not only in terms of north and south, but also between the hardliners and those in favour of a solution, opening up avenues for dialogue and offering a space for cooperation.”

Stewart said the UN “takes seriously” its responsibility to reduce its carbon footprint on the island.

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