Prospects better than ever for Cyprus deal

Prospects better than ever for Cyprus deal

Article source: - Wednesday, July 30, 2008

FORMER Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer publicly embraced his new role as the UN’s special envoy for Cyprus yesterday, saying he was encouraged after meeting the two leaders.

Downer, whose first visit it was to Cyprus, had been well-briefed by the UN both in New York and in Nicosia and faultlessly executed a short but low-key bicommual news conference in Nicosia yesterday afternoon.

He was accompanied by UN Chief of Mission Taye-Brook Zerihoun.

Downer met President Demetris Christofias in the morning and later crossed to the north to meet Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat.

“Developments over the past months have fostered a genuine sense that prospects have perhaps never been better to achieve a comprehensive settlement, favourable to all Cypriots,” Downer said.

“Clearly you have two leaders who are sincere in their commitment and in their engagement to move forward together towards a comprehensive settlement, and this commitment, evident through their joint statements of their recent meetings, have defined the parameters of the solution and the end game, and they have given the process a good deal of momentum.”

He had met the leaders to hear of their assessments of the process so far and see how best they would like the UN to help them move the process forward, he said.

He was encouraged by what he heard during what he described as “extensive discussions” on a wide range of issues.

Christofias and Talat are due to start full-fledged negotiations on September 3 with Downer as special envoy, replacing Alvaro de Soto who bowed out after the failed Annan plan in 2004.

“It is looking quite promising, but there is no doubt that this is a very difficult process for them,” Downer said of his meetings with the two leaders.

“One of things that has impressed me is the way there is convergence on quite a number of issues, but of course there are many unresolved issues still to be addressed.”

But so far he said the process had got off to a good start and was being handled very well.

“It is a process that needs to move forward constructively and as quickly as is practical,” he said. “This process is under the auspices of the UN, but the UN role is to provide help as best we can and we look forward to doing that.”

Asked whether he had a timeframe in mind for a solution, Downer added: “This is not a process anyone would like to see roll on endlessly.”

The Australian envoy said he would be travelling to Cyprus “as needed” during the process that will begin on September 3.

“I will go back to Australia from time to time and I will clearly be here a substantial amount of time as well. We will see how it goes, as needs arise,” he added

Downer, who arrived on Sunday, will leave Cyprus this morning and return for the “formal launch of the talks” in September.

He was briefed later yesterday afternoon by the ambassadors of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, Britain, France, Russia, China and the US.

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