NEWS

UN talks on new Cyprus peace effort

NICOSIA (AFP) – Greek-Cypriot and UN officials were yesterday due to hold more talks in New York, exploring the prospects for a fresh round of stalled peace negotiations to reunify the divided island of Cyprus. The new push comes more than a year after a UN plan to end the three-decade partition of the Mediterranean island failed when Greek Cypriots voted it down in a referendum, although it was overwhelmingly supported by Turkish Cypriots. The closed-door meetings kicked off on Monday in New York between Tassos Tzionis, head of Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos’s diplomatic office, Nicosia’s UN Ambassador Andreas Mavroyiannis and UN Undersecretary for Political Affairs Kieran Prendergast. «Tzionis will stay in New York for as long as necessary to explain the procedural position of the Greek-Cypriot side and be briefed on the intentions of the United Nations,» Cyprus Foreign Minister George Iacovou said. «He will not give any detailed explanations of Greek-Cypriot positions or submit anything in writing,» he told state radio. The United Nations, frustrated over the failure of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s peace plan, is seeking clarification of the changes demanded by the Greek Cypriots before deciding whether a new peace initiative is feasible. Local state radio said the Greek-Cypriot side wanted a speedier timetable for the withdrawal of Turkish troops, a shorter timespan for the handover of Turkish-held territory to a Greek-Cypriot administration and tighter security guarantees to ensure Turkey will honor any peace accord. Media reports said Prendergast could pay a visit to Nicosia at the end of the month for further discussions with Papadopoulos and Turkish-Cypriot leaders, depending on how the New York talks progress. The island’s continued division remains a diplomatic headache for the European Union and a major hurdle for Turkey’s own bid to join the EU. After the failure of the April 2004 referendum on the Annan plan, Cyprus joined the EU as a divided island the following May, but the bloc’s laws only apply to the internationally recognized south. However, while not recognizing the breakaway Turkish-Cypriot state in northern Cyprus, the EU has since then promoted measures to support the Turkish-Cypriot economy.