Cypriot leaders renew pledge to reach settlement as latest UN-led talks wrap up

Cypriot leaders renew pledge to reach settlement as latest UN-led talks wrap up

Special Adviser on Cyprus Alexander Downer
The Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders reaffirmed their commitment today to United Nations-sponsored talks aimed at reunifying the Mediterranean island and pledged to reach a settlement as soon as possible.

“Looking back to our efforts since March 2008, we recognize that we still need to consider a long list of chapters. We also assess that although some progress has been made, it has been insufficient,” Greek Cypriot leader Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat said in a joint statement from Nicosia, following today’s meeting.

In May, the two leaders committed to a partnership that will comprise a Federal Government with a single international identity, as well as a Turkish Cypriot Constituent State and a Greek Cypriot Constituent State which will be of equal status. They met on 16 December to examine issues concerning state and federal laws.

Speaking to the press after today’s meeting at the UN Protected Area in Nicosia, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Cyprus, Alexander Downer, described the joint statement as “a very encouraging and a very positive development.”

The two leaders, Mr. Downer said, focused their discussion on external affairs and the powers of a federal government. They will meet again on 5 January to hash out the “hierarchy of norms” – the relationship between laws passed by the Federal Government and legislation created by the country’s constituent States – as well as other remaining constitutional concerns. Two more meetings are planned for the following week.

Mr. Downer dismissed reporters’ claims that the UN would end the talks and that Cyprus would be permanently divided if a solution is not reached next year. He said the negotiations are gaining momentum and that he looks forward to productive discussions in 2009.

The full-fledged power-sharing talks, central to the reunification process in Cyprus, began in September. UN peacekeepers have been deployed there since 1964 to prevent fighting between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities.