UN envoy optimistic about Cyprus

NICOSIA (Combined reports) – With face-to-face talks between Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash continuing this week, Alvaro de Soto, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s special adviser on Cyprus, on Thursday expressed optimism about their success, while cautioning that much work lies ahead. Speaking on UN Radio, the Peruvian diplomat, who is present at the open-ended series of three meetings a week between Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot leaders, noted that the media blackout was «encouraging» and indicative of the determination by the two leaders to hammer out an agreement. «They’re off to an encouraging start. There appears to be a determination on the two sides to look for ways finally to solve the longstanding Cyprus problem,» de Soto declared. «And actually one of the signs that is encouraging is the fact that there is very little information coming out as to what is being discussed.» Clerides and Denktash met again yesterday on neutral ground in the UN buffer zone in Nicosia, the fourth meeting this week following an additional meeting on Thursday in a drive to speed up reunification talks ahead of a June target date. The meeting on Thursday lasted 85 minutes and afterward government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou told reporters that «further meetings will be held whenever it is deemed necessary.» Denktash on Wednesday had declared that extra meetings were needed to mesh the details within the big picture of an overall settlement. «Discussing the functions without a structure left things up in the air,» he said. The UN envoy stressed in his interview that there seems to be from both sides a wish to address the questions without hesitation, «and a willingness to consider each other’s positions, which I must say didn’t exist heretofore.» Denktash, whose breakaway state is recognized only by Ankara, has long insisted on the creation of two separate but associated states, while Clerides backs a federal solution as envisaged by UN resolutions. De Soto, though, notes that more core issues need to be examined before a final settlement is reached. «The secretary-general has identified four core issues or clusters of issues, you might call them,» he said. «One is the one that relates to how the island is going to be governed, the question of distribution of powers, governance as a whole. Another is the question of security. The third is the question of property, meaning the property that was left behind by those who fled either northward or southward and during the crisis’s critical years. And the fourth is the issue of territory. That is the proportion of territory to come under Turkish-Cypriot administration and Greek-Cypriot administration.» The UN envoy acknowledged that there were still many more questions that the parties would have to tackle in their talks, but he underlined that if the core issues are addressed in a framework with each side making concessions «and in a satisfactory manner, that should essentially solve the issues.» According to a report filed on Thursday by Agence France-Presse from Nicosia, sources close to the talks have indicated that the two sides are expected to wrangle in the next few meetings over the Turkish-Cypriot proposal of a rotating presidency. The majority Greek Cypriots have objected to Denktash’s demand that the two communities take turns at running the country.

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