Christofias is hopeful rift can be healed

The new round of talks aimed at solving the Cyprus problem «are difficult negotiations but I believe that the gap can be bridged,» Cyprus President Dimitris Christofias told Kathimerini’s new Cypriot weekend edition. «The process must continue as it started, without arbitration or deadlines,» Christo-fias said. He said there was no sense in rushing talks with the Turkish Cypriots «merely to end up in a deadlock and completely alienated from each other.» He said that Nicosia was firm in its calls for a bizonal, bicommunal federation and added that recent insistence from Turkish President Abdullah Gul for a confederation of two independent states was worrying Nicosia. Questioned about the progress of his talks with Turkish Cypriot community leader Mehmet Ali Talat behind closed doors, Christofias said, «I have asked him to clarify his position as to what it is we are aiming for.» Regarding the role of United Nations envoy Alexander Downer, Christofias said it was «neither that of a mediator nor of an arbiter.» «His role is to create the necessary circumstances for the leaders of the two communities to find a solution.» As for the role of the European Union, Christofias said it was secondary to that of the UN in the talks process but that it would be crucial when it comes to forging a common economic policy and conforming to the acquis communautaire. «I would like the EU to intervene at the right moment…to ensure that Turkish Cypriots conform to EU standards and that Turkey realizes it must fulfil its obligations to Cyprus as an EU candidate.» Christofias also revealed that the process to appoint his successor as leader of Cyprus’s left-wing AKEL party would begin in January.