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TURKISH Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat announced yesterday that he expects direct peace talks between the two sides to begin in September.
In a live interview with CNN Turk, Talat announced the start of direct negotiations with President Demetris Christofias.

“They will begin in September,” Talat responded when questioned about the timing of the talks.

Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat will meet at 11am tomorrow at the residence of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative Taye-Brook Zerihoun. The agenda for the meeting will be the review of the working groups and technical committees set up to prepare the grounds for fully-fledged negotiations, and the leaders of the two sides are set to decide whether to go forward to negotiations.

Speculation has been rife that peace talks between the two sides would begin in the autumn, as the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders have met on three occasions since Christofias’ election in February and “established the base for a solution”. The fact that former Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has been appointed to the post of UN special Cyprus envoy also came as confirmation that direct talks are around the corner.

In yesterday’s interview with CNN Turk, Talat added that one of the most important aspects of the talks would be the issue of political equality.

He also mentioned that there were issues that constituted a “red line”, but the Turkish Cypriot side was prepared to discuss any matter put forward.

Meanwhile, Downer is expected in Cyprus at the end of the month. The former Australian Foreign Minister is in New York and yesterday met with UN Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon ahead of the assumption of his duties on the island.

By Nassos Stylianou, Cyprus Mail, July 24, 2008|||Talat says talks will start in September
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