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Cyprus: Two sides agree to future talks

Cyprus: Two sides agree to future talks following meetings with UN official

Leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities have committed to proceed by end of July with technical talks on issues affecting the day-to-day life of people on both sides, and have agreed on broader principles concerning the need to seek a comprehensive settlement, a senior United Nations official who brought them together on the island has announced.

After face-to-face talks held Saturday in Nicosia with Greek Cypriot leader H.E. Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish Cypriot leader H.E. Mehmet Ali Talat, UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari read out a text comprising a “set of principles” and a “decision by the two leaders” which outline next steps in the diplomatic effort to resolve the decades-old inter-communal conflict on the Mediterranean island.

The Set of Principles includes commitment to the unification of Cyprus based on a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation and political equality, as set out in Security Council resolutions.

The UN has been involved in the island since March 1964 when the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) was set up to prevent a recurrence of fighting, contribute to the maintenance and restoration of law and order, and contribute to a return to normal conditions. The mission still maintains a buffer zone and supervises ceasefire lines on the island.

In the statement read by Mr. Gambari, the sides recognized that “the status quo is unacceptable and that its prolongation would have negative consequences for the Turkish and Greek Cypriots.” A comprehensive settlement “is both desirable and possible, and should not be further delayed.”

They agree to begin a process immediately, involving bi-communal discussion of issues that affect the day-to-day life of the people while addressing those that concern substantive issues, both of which will contribute to a comprehensive settlement.

Further, the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot sides committed to ensure that the “right atmosphere” prevails for this process to be successful. “In that connection, confidence building measures are essential, both in terms of improving the atmosphere and improving the life of all Turkish and Greek Cypriots,” the statement notes, adding that “an end must be put to the so-called 'blame game.'

The Technical Committees on issues that affect the day-to-day life of people will commence by the end of July, according to the statement, which notes that by then the two leaders should have exchanged a list of issues of substance and its contents will be studied by expert bi-communal working groups and finalized by the leaders.

“The two Leaders will meet further, from time to time as appropriate, to give directions to the expert bi-communal working groups as well as to review the work of the Technical Committees,” the statement adds.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan had led earlier talks seeking a comprehensive settlement but these failed in April 2004 when 65 per cent of Turkish Cypriots voted in favour of the plan but 76 per cent of Greek Cypriots voted against it.

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