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UN Political Chief Optimistic Over Cyprus Progress

UN political chief optimistic about progress in Cyprus towards possible unity

18 June 2008 - The top United Nations political official says he is optimistic that the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities are making real progress in their discussions on possible reunification and could soon move into substantive talks on resolving the issue.

Wrapping up a two-day visit to the Mediterranean island, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe told reporters in Nicosia that the two community leaders had made a good start in their face-to-face discussions earlier this year.

Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat "are very committed to moving forward and to finally resolving the Cyprus problem and to getting a unified Cyprus," he said.

Mr. Pascoe met twice this week with Mr. Christofias and with Mr. Talat, and he also held meetings with representatives of civil society and Security Council permanent members.

He was also briefed by the UN facilitators of the working groups and technical committees which the two community leaders decided to set up in March.

"It is my understanding that these working groups will continue as a supporting mechanism to help the leaders who will be working on the hard political questions," Mr. Pascoe said.

"I think as the time goes on, hopefully, we will have some agreements out of these groups that will be out there and people will see that really they are designed to help the people of Cyprus - to make life better, to make life easier, to make life more normal."

The two leaders' advisers are scheduled to meet tomorrow with the Secretary-General's Special Representative in Cyprus, Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, to set a date for the leaders' next meeting.

"An issue that has been around this long is inevitably going to have problems arise, but my strong sense is that the overall direction is a very positive one," Mr. Pascoe said. "I remain quite optimistic that the process is moving forward and I think that we will get involved in substantive talks in the not too distant future."

After a meeting on 23 May, Mr. Christofias and Mr. Talat committed themselves in a statement to working towards "a bicommunal, bizonal federation with political equality, as defined by relevant Security Council resolutions."

The partnership will comprise a Federal Government with a single international personality, along with a Turkish Cypriot Constituent State and a Greek Cypriot Constituent State, which will be of equal status.

Mr. Pascoe said it was clear "there are huge expectations" among the international community about the current process.

"I think all of us hope that the future of Cyprus is united as a very strong member of Europe - a strong outpost of Europe in the south. I think it is very clear and a goal of the entire international community, and we at the UN who have been working on this issue for a very long time want to do everything we can to make it work."

The UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) has been in place on the island since 1964 after the outbreak of intercommunal violence. It is tasked with preventing a recurrence of fighting, contributing to a return to normal conditions and the maintenance of law and order.

ENDS

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