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THE Cyprus negotiations were left up in the air yesterday after the two leaders met for what could very well be their last time given the lack of progress to date, and the obstacles arising in the coming months.

Although aides to the two leaders were still meeting on property, no new meeting was fixed between President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu before UN Special Adviser Alexander Downer goes to New York mid-April to meet with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Eroglu said after yesterday’s meeting that as far as the Turkish Cypriot side was concerned, they had made it clear the meeting was at least the last one until Ban decides whether or not to call an international conference.

The Turkish side has already said it will not come to the table for as long as Cyprus holds the six-monthly EU rotating presidency, which begins on July 1. Almost immediately after that in February 2013 the Greek Cypriots will hold a presidential election, leaving little leeway for any breakthrough if none is reached by the end of June.

Downer said yesterday if the leaders wished to meet before mid April, it was up to them. Even though he would not be on the island, he said his staff would facilitate a meeting if the leaders wished.

“The timing of the leaders’ meeting is ultimately a matter for them because as I have often said this is a Cypriot-owned and Cypriot-led process,” said Downer. “That was one of the bases for these negotiations laid down at the very beginning of this process. So, that’s really a matter for them.”

Downer’s report on the status of the peace talks is due to be completed today, depending on the outcome of the property discussions between the leaders’ respective aides.

According to sources, the outcome of negotiations between the aides Giorgos Iacovou and Kudret Ozersay would have a clear impact on the ‘flavour’ of Downer’s report.

The same source did not rule out the two aides meeting again today if necessary. It is believed the two sides are seeking agreement on the basic ground rules of a mechanism that would be instrumental in solving the massive property issue.  

This in turn would give Downer a rare opportunity to write about a positive development in the final phase of the talks in a short report he is preparing for Ban tonight. The Australian native will discuss the report with the UN chief on April 19 or 20. The two are expected to decide on the next stage of the talks, with options including calling an international conference, continuing negotiations either up until July 1 or beyond, suspending the talks or ending the peace process completely.

Assuming the two aides are able to reach agreement on the ground rules for the property mechanism, it seems unlikely incremental progress on a property mechanism alone will be enough for Ban to justify an international conference.

Downer has in the past said the two sides need to overcome obstacles like property and election of the executive before a multilateral conference can be called. On the other hand, the UN adviser did seem buoyed by his meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu last week in Brussels, suggesting the latter may have hinted at more flexible positions in the eleventh hour.

Speaking after the meeting yesterday, Christofias said the Greek Cypriot side was ready to continue talks until a “common language” can be found, irrespective of Downer’s report.

Asked about the possibility of an international conference, Christofias said he did not believe the UNSG would convene such a meeting because there was nothing to justify it.

“None of the obligations and commitments undertaken before the Secretary-General have been met,” he said, arguing that Eroglu did not stick to what was previously agreed between his predecessor Mehmet Ali Talat and Christofias.

A meeting on the international aspects of the Cyprus issue could take place if and when the internal aspects of the problem have been solved, he said.

“The issue of governance is still open, the issue of citizenship is still open, the issue of property is still open, and the issue of territory is still open. These are important aspects of the Cyprus problem. So convening any meeting is not justified,” said Christofias.

Asked about reports that Eroglu sent a letter to Ban saying he would accept cross-voting for the federal executive if the UN chief calls an international conference, the President said Eroglu made no such reference in yesterday’s meeting, suggesting the rumours could be a communications ploy to influence international opinion.

Eroglu yesterday confirmed that he had sent a letter to Ban saying that if an international conference was called, the Turkish Cypriot side was ready to discuss a lot of issues.

Source: Cyprus-Mail

By Stefanos Evripidou

Published on March 30, 2012

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