News / Europe

    UN Envoy Upbeat About Cyprus Talks

    Alexander Downer (file photo)
    Alexander Downer (file photo)

    The United Nations envoy says he is encouraged by the progress made so far during discussions to reach a settlement to the 36-year-old division of Cyprus, adding that the process needs to be speeded up.

    Despite growing public pessimism about the future of this peace dialogue, Alexander Downer, the United Nations special envoy in Cyprus remains upbeat, saying he believes differences between the two sides can be resolved.

    "The process needs to maintain momentum," he said. "There needs to be continued forward movement in the negotiations. The leaders need to be enthusiastic about meeting and having their officials meet from time and particularly when issues become difficult - it varies and some issues are easier to deal with than others. But when things become difficult to make sure that they redouble their efforts to find solutions to those difficult problems."

    The negotiations to end the division, which started in late 2008, have been described as the 'last chance' for Cyprus peace.

    Peace talks were postponed in early June because of a dispute over comments by the Turkish Cypriot leader about the basis of the talks - they are scheduled to restart on June 15.

    The failure to agree to a deal could spell the end to any future U.N. sponsored dialogue and both community leaders have stressed that there is "no plan B".

    The Turkish U.N. Ambassador Ertegul Apakan said on Thursday that there is a good chance that the U.N. process would reach an agreement by the end of 2010, adding that Ankara will encourage the two sides to continue their efforts to reach an agreement.

    The division of Cyprus also poses one of the most difficult issues affecting EU-Turkey relations, with the future of Turkey's accession talks hinging on the successful resolution of the problem.

    Turkey still maintains approximately 45,000 troops on the island, and a U.N. force of 850 troops patrols the buffer zone, which divides the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south and Turkish Cypriot north, which is recognized only by Turkey.

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded the northern part of the island in response to a military coup that was backed by the Greek government.

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