Under UN prodding, President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat have agreed to speed up the process with more frequent meetings.
Christofias is in Paris today, attending a Eurozone summit to assess the international credit crisis, but will be back on the island tonight.
An air of pessimism – for which the government itself was partly responsible – had hung over the talks prior to Friday’s meeting. However, when it was over Christofias said he was “satisfied” and that “progress” had been made.
Christofias also told newsmen that one should not expect the Cyprus problem to be solved after just a couple of sessions.
The sentiment was shared by UN Special Envoy Alexander Downer, who urged all parties concerned, including the media on both sides, to be patient and give the two leaders some “space” to talk shop.
Government Spokesman Stephanos Stephanou said yesterday that achieving a solution did not depend so much on the frequency of the meetings, but rather on whether the sides brought “reasonable proposals” to the table.
Only through an earnest give-and-take could the two sides bridge their differences, he added.
Responding to questions, Stephanou said the UN’s role was defined by UN Security Council resolutions, which state that the peace process is owned by the Cypriot people and that the settlement must be agreed and put to simultaneous referenda.
Deputy Andreas Angelides of DIKO, AKEL’s main government partner, took a militant stance, urging Christofias to expose Turkish intransigence.
“It is a political error to say that the key to the solution lies in Ankara. Instead, we should be saying that Turkey is responsible for invading and occupying territory which is now part of the EU. Turkey should be denounced internationally as the root cause of the problem and as a human rights violator,” he said.
And EDEK boss Yiannakis Omirou suggested Nicosia and Athens turn the screws on Turkey by sending a clear message that Ankara’s EU accession bid would be endangered if it insisted on its intransigent stance.
“Turkey’s goal remains virgin birth, the dissolution of the Republic of Cyprus… and keeping the security guarantees in place,” Omirou declared.
Ruling AKEL chose to focus on the positive, with party spokesman Andros Kyprianou welcoming Friday’s decision to re-activate the working groups of experts supporting the talks process.
Kyprianou flatly disagreed with the idea of “reporting” Turkey to international fora. He said that would be a counter-productive move at a time when negotiations were ongoing.
According to Kyprianou, President Christofias was already doing a good job of exposing Turkish intransigence by bringing to the table “objective positions” which were not reciprocated by the other side.
Nicos Tornaritis of DISY, which has lent Christofias full support, called for a more active involvement of the EU in the peace process.
Foreign leaders should be kept updated on the course of negotiations, so that in the event the talks were stalling “those mechanisms could be brought into action that will move the process forward again.”
The leaders of the two communities next come together in no-man’s land tomorrow to resume discussion on power-sharing and governance, the first item on the talks’ agenda.
Christofias was elected in February on a ticket to revive reunification talks, stalled for four years since Greek Cypriots rejected a UN blueprint.
Though no timeframe has been set for a settlement, the UN has indicated to both sides that the talks should not be allowed to drag on indefinitely.
By Elias Hazou, Cyprus Mail, October 12, 2008