The first day of talks between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders aimed at reunifying the island of Cyprus today in Nicosia were fruitful and productive, the top United Nations envoy on the issue said.
Greek Cypriot leader Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat began discussions on the subject of governance and power sharing as part of their full-fledged negotiations aimed at reaching a comprehensive settlement to the long-running problem on the Mediterranean island.
“Both leaders are doing what they can to push the process ahead at an appropriate speed,” said Alexander Downer, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Cyprus.
“It has been a good discussion today but obviously there is a long way to go. It is the very beginning of the process,” Mr. Downer told the press after the talks.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that his adviser had met the previous day with Turkish President Abdullah Gül, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ali Babacan as well as other senior Turkish officials “for a useful exchange of views on the Cyprus issue.”
Earlier this week Mr. Downer also held talks in Athens with Greek Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis and Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis.
Speaking to journalists today at a press conference in New York, Mr. Ban reiterated that he was encouraged by the progress so far and the UN’s facilitation role for the talks.
“While I believe the Cypriot people have the ownership of this [negotiation process], we are committed to continue to provide our facilitating role,” he said.
He also called on the community leaders “to seize the momentum” and show flexibility and wisdom during the negotiations.
In May, Mr. Christofias and Mr. Talat committed to a partnership that will comprise of a Federal Government with a single international identity, along with a Turkish Cypriot Constituent State and a Greek Cypriot Constituent State, which will be of equal status.
“It has been going well. These are big issues. Discussing something like governance and power sharing for a constitution is a big question, so inevitably it will take a bit of time,” Mr. Downer said.
The Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders will meet again on 18 September to resume talks on these issues and will then move on to negotiations over property.