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Lauding progress to date, Ban advocates accelerating pace of Cyprus talks

Lauding progress to date, Ban advocates accelerating pace of Cyprus talks

The Ledra Street crossing point in Cyprus gets checked for unexploded ordnance
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has encouraged Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders to accelerate the momentum in their United Nations-backed reunification talks, while lauding the progress made so far.

“I see a need for an increase in the pace of the talks as the sides start to address issues more holistically,” Mr. Ban writes in a new report covering developments in Cyprus from 24 November 2008 to 10 May 2009. “Indeed, the parties themselves recognize that a settlement will be harder to reach as each day passes without a solution.”

The spirit of the negotiations, and the constructive and open manner in which the two leaders are approaching the talks, he says, demand that the solution should be achievable “within a reasonable time frame.”

In May 2008, Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat committed themselves to working towards “a bicommunal, bizonal federation with political equality, as defined by relevant Security Council resolutions.”

The partnership will comprise a Federal Government with a single international personality, along with a Turkish Cypriot Constituent State and a Greek Cypriot Constituent State, which will be of equal status.

The two leaders have met over 25 times since full-fledged power-sharing negotiations began last September, focusing on concerns involving the harmonization of Federal and Constituent State laws, delicate property issues and European Union membership.

Mr. Ban credits the “close relationship” of the two leaders for a lessening of the “mutual public recriminations” that were more prevalent in the past.

“At the same time, it is discouraging to note that, during the reporting period, polls have clearly shown a high level of scepticism among the respective populations towards the ongoing negotiations,” he says.

“Given that any eventual agreement will require popular support expressed through simultaneous referendums, it is imperative that the leaders develop strategies to actively communicate to their respective constituencies the economic, political, security-related and many other benefits of a solution, and to convey that a solution would be impossible without compromise.”

The Secretary-General also voices disappointment that more progress has not been made on the nearly two dozen confidence-building measures the parties have agreed on, adding that the apparent lack of political will to implement these measures constitutes “a missed opportunity” to build public support within the two communities for the process.

In the absence of a comprehensive settlement, Mr. Ban believes that the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) continues to play a vital and unique role on the island and recommends that the Security Council extend its mandate for another six months, until 15 December 2009.

UNFICYP has been in place on the island since 1964, following the outbreak of inter-communal violence. It is tasked with preventing a recurrence of the fighting, contributing to a return to normal conditions and maintaining law and order.

The Secretary-General notes that the situation in the buffer zone remained calm during the reporting period. Also, there was a decrease in military violations, and the opposing forces demonstrated restraint and overall good cooperation with UNFICYP.

But he adds that the generally good cooperation with the opposing forces was marred by increased restrictions imposed on UNFICYP by the Turkish Forces, which are constraining the ability of the Force to carry out its mandate and pose significant difficulties for its personnel.