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IN THEIR last meeting of the year, the two leaders yesterday put on a rare display of common desire, expressing their “strong hope” that 2010 will be the year of a Cyprus solution.

Following the last session of direct talks for 2009, President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat released a joint statement, read out by UN coordinator Yasser Sabra.

“The two leaders extend to all Greek and Turkish Cypriots their best wishes for the New Year and express their strong hope that 2010 will be the year of solution of the Cyprus problem,” said the two leaders.

While Talat has hoped for a solution and set potential deadlines almost from the start of the talks in September 2008, Christofias has consistently objected to “strict timeframes”, avoiding any reference to a possible month or year of a solution. Yesterday’s joint statement appears to be the first time that both have highlighted a specific time period for a final deal on the long-standing division.

Reports in the press speculate that the two aim to reach a good deal of convergence on most of the issues discussed in the second round of negotiations, before suspending the process to allow for the ‘presidential’ elections in the north, set for April 2010. It is deemed unlikely progress will be recorded on security and guarantees, territory, property or even the settlers issue before the February recess. The same reports suggest the two leaders are aiming for an agreed solution by mid-2010, giving enough time for referenda to be held near the end of the year.

During yesterday’s talks, Christofias and Talat reconfirmed their earlier decision to intensify their efforts by meeting on January 11, 12, 13 and 18, 19, 20. As was expected, the initial idea to have the intensive sessions held at each other’s homes on either side of the divide did not pan out, mainly due to logistics. Instead the two bouts of intensive diplomacy will take place at the official residence of the UN Special Representative in the UN-controlled Nicosia Airport. Christofias yesterday attributed the move away from the ‘home diplomacy’ tactic to the desire of the UN to continue negotiations in the UN-held area.

During the two three-day sessions, the leaders will aim for more convergences on the three issues of governance and power-sharing, the economy and EU matters, while they are also due to continue their discussion on property.

Before leaving the country on Saturday, UN Special Advisor Alexander Downer said the UN believed Cyprus was one of the problems in the world that can be solved in 2010. “There really needs to be good progress in January,” he added.

The next meeting of the leaders will take place on January 4 where they will discuss EU matters. In the meantime, the two leaders’ respective aides will meet on December 28 to further discuss the agenda of the January meetings.

Speaking after yesterday’s meeting, Christofias clarified that the two leaders were not aiming to solve the problem before the elections in the north. Asked whether decisions would be taken in January on the ‘heavyweight’ issues like territory and guarantees, the president replied: “We have agreed to leave territory last. There is no target to solve the Cyprus problem before elections in the occupied north. As a result, we will continue negotiations after the elections with whoever the Turkish Cypriot community prefers to be its leader.”

Christofias rubbished reports that the two leaders would reach a preliminary agreement or put their initials to one before the elections. He explained that the two sides would put their positions across during the first round of intensive talks at the UN residence, and then aim for convergence on the issues during the second round. In between, a meeting of the National Council will be held.

The president stated that if the Turkish Cypriot side showed the necessary good will, and as long as basic principles were not violated, then he was ready to continue for a solution.

Christofias also had a dig at his coalition partners, mainly DIKO, for their lack of cooperation, and demanded mutual respect among government partners.

“I am not very happy when coalition parties work, for example, with the opposition to cut budgets from CyBC…when we participated in the government of the late Tassos Papadopoulos, we never behaved in that way, but with more consensus and cooperation,” he said, adding that he demanded, not requested, mutual respect from DIKO and EDEK.

By Stefanos Evripidou Published by Cyprusmail on December 22, 2009
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