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PRESIDENT Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat meet today to decide whether to start negotiations in September.

Christofias goes to the talks with the blessing of only three of the political parties, ruling AKEL, opposition DISY and the United Democrats.

Coalition partners DIKO and EDEK, and the Greens say the time is not right for talks and that the basis of negotiations is not clear. But they would still support the President, they said. The European Party was also opposed to starting negotiations, and has been heavily critical of Christofias.

DIKO met for five hours yesterday before taking a final decision. Party leader Marios Garoyian said conditions for starting talks had not been met in the party’s opinion, but they would support the President. The central committee voted 20 in favour and seven against, he said.

There had been speculation earlier that DIKO might leave the government alliance if the President decided today to go for fully-fledged negotiations.

Christofias concluded talks with the party leaders yesterday in advance of today’s meeting. Looking somewhat sombre leaving the Presidential Palace last night he said the parties would support him, given what had been said in private.

“I am generally satisfied, the positions of political parties,” he said. “The parties will support the choices of the President of the Republic.”

Before announcing whether to go for negotiations, the two leaders will review progress in the working groups and technical committees, even though essentially it’s a foregone conclusion that they will announce talks, barring any unexpected negative developments.

While they are likely to agree to go for negotiations, it is not certain whether an actual date for the talks will be fixed today.

Meanwhile UN Special Adviser Alexander Downer, who will mediate new Cyprus talks, will arrive on the island on Sunday and meet the two leaders on Tuesday. He will spend Monday being briefed by UN staff, although he has already spent the past few days in New York with Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon.

By Jean Christou, Cyprus Mail, July 25, 2008|||DIKO stops short of coalition pullout
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