The Bush administration is urging U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to name a new special envoy to expedite settlement talks in the Cyprus dispute. Cyprus has been a major issue for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and key aides at the U.N. General Assembly in New York. VOA's David Gollust reports from our U.N. bureau.
Cyprus peace efforts have been largely stalled since 2004, when Greek-Cypriot voters rejected a peace plan by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan that would have reunited the Greece and Turkish parts of the island in a federation.
But eager to resolve the issue, which has long complicated ties between NATO allies Greece and Turkey, the Bush administration is urging a new diplomatic push on Cyprus by the United Nations.
Cyprus figured prominently in a meeting Wednesday in New York between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan and in separate meetings by Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns and Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos.
The Burns meeting with Mr. Papadopoulos was the first senior-level contact between the two governments since 2004, reflecting U.S. displeasure over the rejection of the Annan plan by Greek Cypriots while the Turkish side had approved it.
Burns later told reporters the United States wants a new beginning in ties with the Nicosia government and a new settlement push by the United Nations that would include naming a new U.N. special envoy.
The senior U.S. diplomat pointedly did not urge a revival of the Annan plan. He said there are positive elements in several past settlement efforts including the as-yet-implemented agreement mediated last year by U.N. Under-Secretary General Ibrahim Gambari. That agreement calls for working groups to ease everyday relations between the Cypriot communities:
"I told the president, and we had a good discussion of this, that the July 8th, 2006 agreement was a positive step forward," said Burns. "That is the position of our government. And if there is to be a new effort by the United Nations, and of course that is a decision of the secretary-general, then there is a lot we can draw on from some of the plans in the past, not all of them, not identically, not completely perhaps, because it will have to be a new effort. But there is a lot of history here, and there has been a lot of progress made over a long time. And we should take the best ideas that can form a common denominator, a common foundation."
Burns said the basic U.S. position continues to be that Cyprus should be reunited as a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation.
Cyprus has been divided along ethnic lines since 1974 when Turkish forces occupied the northern third of the island in response to a Greek-Cypriot coup aimed at uniting the Greek and Turkish parts of the island.
The northern part of the island is governed by the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, recognized only by Turkey. The Cypriot government in the south is a member of the European Union and internationally recognized.
At a U.N. news conference, Cypriot President Papadopoulos blamed the Turkish side for the failure to implement the accords negotiated by Mr. Gambari, who is now the U.N. special envoy for Burma. He said the root of the broader political impasse is that Turkey wants a two-state confederation, rather than a federal state of the two ethnic communities.
Undersecretary Burns, who visited Turkey last week, said he is telling all the concerned parties that with goodwill and hard work, progress is possible.