Ban reports ‘solid’ progress in UN-backed Cyprus talks, urges parties to forge ahead

3 December 2009
The Ledra Street crossing point in Cyprus gets checked for unexploded ordnance

The Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot sides are making headway in the United Nations-backed talks aimed at reunifying the Mediterranean island, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reports, urging the parties to do their utmost to ensure a successful outcome.

“The parties are making solid progress, and I am cautiously optimistic that a solution can be achieved,” Mr. Ban writes in a report on his mission of good offices in Cyprus which is led by his Special Adviser, Alexander Downer.

“On the basis of what has been accomplished so far, the international community expects the talks to continue to make substantial progress in a timely fashion,” he adds.

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

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

Mr. Ban notes that the gaps between the sides have narrowed on a number of important issues, but differences remain, and it is clear that more work needs to be done to achieve full convergence.

“Implementing in practice the agreed objective of a bizonal, bicommunal federation with political equality in a united Cyprus in which the concerns of both parties are taken into account and that is, at the same time, functional and stable, is a considerable challenge.

“It is ambitious, but it is achievable,” he states.

As part of the ongoing negotiations, Mr. Christofias and Mr. Talat have held more than 50 meetings, including one today in Nicosia during which they discussed issues of citizenship, aliens, immigration and asylum. They are expected to meet again on 9 December.

“I am encouraged by the commitment, courage and determination shown by the two leaders despite the considerable challenges posed by the negotiations and the ongoing domestic criticism in the north and the south directed at the leaders and the process,” says Mr. Ban.

He urges the parties to make greater efforts to carry out the nearly two dozen confidence-building measures that have been agreed to in order to strengthen inter-communal relations and to build greater public support within the communities for the process.

“The coming weeks and months will be decisive, as important decisions will have to be made,” states the Secretary-General. “Given that the leaders of the two communities are committed to finding a solution to the Cyprus problem, this is a unique opportunity that must be seized by both sides. It is incumbent upon both leaders to meet the hopes and expectations of their people for a comprehensive and sustainable solution to the Cyprus problem within a reasonable time frame.”

In a separate report released yesterday, Mr. Ban called for a six-month extension of the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force, known as UNFICYP, which has been in place on the island since 1964, following the outbreak of inter-communal violence.

He also noted that although considerable progress has been made in the talks, “the two sides have not yet considered in depth the role with the United Nations would be expected to play in support of a settlement.”

In spite of this, UNFICYP has already started preparatory activities based on a range of possible outcomes.


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