NEWS

UN’s Ban may call conference on Cyprus

UN chief Ban Ki-moon said on Wednesday he planned to call an international conference in late April or early May on a settlement to resolve the division of Cyprus, if there was enough progress in negotiations before that.

Ban was speaking after two days of UN-mediated talks near New York between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders, which he conceded had made ?limited progress? on outstanding issues. It was the latest meeting in a series that began in 2008.

Cyprus was divided in a 1974 Turkish invasion triggered by a Greek-inspired coup. Greek and Turkish Cypriots agree in principle on reuniting the Mediterranean island under a federal umbrella, but differ on how it is to work.

Ban told journalists he would report to the UN Security Council at the end of February on how the negotiations were progressing and at the end of March would seek a review of the process from the chief UN mediator, Alexander Downer.

?If his report is positive… following consultations with the two sides, I intend to call a multilateral conference in late April or early May,? Ban said.

The United Nations has been talking for some time about such a conference, which would include Greece, Turkey and former colonial power Britain, as well as the Cypriot parties.

But the Greek Cypriots, whose administration is internationally recognized as the government of all Cyprus, have said they want all internal issues relating to a settlement to be resolved before they will attend.

Ban?s announcement appeared intended to put pressure on the two sides to resolve their differences before July 1, when Cyprus takes over the rotating presidency of the European Union.

Downer has said it will be difficult to negotiate while Nicosia is in the EU chair.

Resolving the Cyprus problem, a major source of tension between NATO allies Greece and Turkey, is key to Turkey?s hopes of joining the EU.

This week?s talks between Cypriot President Demetris Christofias, representing the Greek Cypriots, and Dervis Eroglu, who heads a breakaway state recognized only by Ankara, were the fifth round to be hosted by Ban.

They focused on the electoral system in a future federated Cyprus, how to potentially settle property claims from thousands of people internally displaced, and future citizenship on an island whose demographics have shifted massively since division.

A Greek Cypriot source said the talks, at Manhasset in New York state?s Long Island, had achieved no results. However, Kudret Ozersay, chief aide to Eroglu, told Turkish Cypriot media, ?We leave this summit having achieved what we came for.?

Ban said the discussions ?were robust and intensive, although limited progress was achieved. I reminded the leaders that this process is Cypriot-owned and Cypriot-led. The UN is not here to impose solutions upon the sides.?

?To maintain the momentum and continue negotiations, even in an intensive manner, is not enough,? he added. ?I have urged the leaders to make decisive steps to move to a final agreement.?

As a next step in the negotiations, he said the two sides had agreed to complete an exchange of data on property within the next two weeks.