UN’s Feltman meets with Cypriot leaders before substantial talks

One day before the start of critical “substantial talks” regarding the long-divided island of Cyprus, United Nations Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman met with Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders on the island.

Paying his first visit to Cyprus, Feltman met with Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades early in the morning, and later with Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) President DerviS Eroglu. Feltman is also scheduled to meet with Turkish Cypriot negotiator Kudret Ozersay and Greek Cypriot negotiator Andreas Mavroyiannis before leaving Cyprus.

The Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders and negotiators will start substantial talks on Tuesday. The two sides met on Feb. 11 and resumed negotiations with the aim of reaching a comprehensive solution, following intense diplomatic efforts by the US and Turkey. “The timing of this visit is very interesting,” Eroglu’s special advisor and spokesperson Osman Ertug told Today’s Zaman, referring to Feltman’s visit having come just before the talks scheduled for May 6. According to various press reports, Feltman’s visit aims to prevent a deadlock in the negotiations and bring the two sides closer together.

“I cannot say [whether] there is a deadlock [in the negotiation process]. Feltman’s visit will add momentum to the talks. This is his first visit and his first meeting. We hope that Feltman will come to the island more often,” said Ertug, adding that Turkish Cypriots would like to reach a solution before the end of this year.

Regarding his meeting with Anastasiades, Feltman said, “We just had an excellent meeting to talk about the steps forward toward a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem.”

Stressing that he conveyed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s strong support for the joint statement, which lays out the principles of negotiations between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, Feltman said, “The United Nations remains committed to working with the leaders and the people in order to achieve a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus issue.”

Feltman stated that he and Eroglu discussed steps forward for a comprehensive solution for the Cyprus problem, and that the UN secretary-general views the joint statement as a historical development and as a foundation for the negotiations.

According to diplomatic sources, there are deep differences between the two sides with regard to issues of property, territory and security. These differences pose a serious risk for the future of the negotiations. Despite the hopeful start of the negotiations, there has been no significant progress in peace talks.

The leaders of Turkish and Greek Cyprus met in Nicosia in Feb. 11 and resumed peace talks with the aim of reunifying the island. Cyprus is divided into a Turkish north and an internationally recognized Greek south. The KKTC is recognized only by Turkey, which does not recognize the Greek Cypriot administration.

Eroglu said on April 30 that the territorial disputes, especially the chapters on maps and figures, would be brought to the negotiation table only after reaching settlements on other issues. Among other issues to be discussed, he mentioned governance and power sharing, internal security, the EU, economy and property issues.

Eroglu met with the UN secretary-general in New York late April and asked him to step in to help the process. “Ignoring the issues that the two sides have already agreed on and setting off the road from the start will cause a considerable waste of time. I don’t think our nation nor [the] Greek Cypriots have patience for negotiations to last another 40 years,” the Turkish Cypriot leader told reporters shortly after his visit to New York.

Turkish Cypriots would like to speed up negotiations and reach a solution by the end of this year. When Alexander Downer left his position as UN special envoy for Cyprus in March to take the post of Australian high commissioner to London, Turkish Cypriots looked askance at the prospect of selecting a new UN special envoy.

KKTC Foreign Minister Ozdil Nami said on April 17 that the Turkish side doesn’t want to waste time debating over who the next envoy would be; instead, he stressed, the UN secretary-general or one of his aides could personally step in to speed up the peace process in Cyprus.

Turkish Cypriots have floated the idea of more frequent meetings. The chief negotiators from the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot sides meet once a week according to the current schedule, and both sides’ leaders meet once a month to discuss the issues on the table. The offer for more frequent meetings was rejected by the Greek Cypriots.

SOURCE: TODAY’S ZAMAN

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