UN chief offers support for Cyprus peace talks

UN chief offers support for Cyprus peace talks
# 01 February 2010 18:49 (UTC +04:00)
Baku – APA. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised Cyprus’ rival leaders Monday for their efforts to reunify the ethnically divided island, expressing confidence that a decades-old deadlock can be broken, APA reports quoting Associated Press.
On a trip meant to revitalize the process before Turkish Cypriot elections and dispel public gloom, Ban said a deal was within reach.
"I wanted to be here now because I recognize how important it is to continue to build momentum on what the leaders have achieved now," he said at a news conference with the two leaders that was held near crumbling buildings in Nicosia’s U.N.-controlled buffer zone.
Greek Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat have achieved only marginal progress in 17 months of negotiations.
The secretary general praised the two leaders for making progress this month on a proposal to share power in a federal system. He spoke in the U.N. controlled buffer zone that cuts the island — and the city of Nicosia — in two.
"No one is under any illusion that any of this will be easy," said Ban. "But the time is ripe to push ahead. I am convinced that these two leaders can achieve a mutually beneficial solution."
Cyprus was divided into a Greek Cypriot south and a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north in 1974, when Turkey invaded after a short-lived coup by supporters of union with Greece.
The Greek Cypriot government is internationally recognized. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is recognized only by Turkey, which keeps 35,000 troops there.
Christofias and Talat remain far apart on most major issues — including how to treat property seized during the war and Turkey’s right to intervene militarily.
"We are faced with an ironic situation where we all agree there are two leaders fully committed and working hard to continue negotiations, but there is nothing to show for it in the eye of public opinion," said Turkish Cypriot lawyer and analyst Emine Erk.
Both leaders repeated a shared determination Monday to see the process through to a successful end.
"I am ready to shoulder my responsibility until the end," said Talat.
A sense that the talks haven’t gained traction has fueled fears Talat could lose an election April 18 to hardline rival Dervis Eroglu.
The two leaders agreed to continue negotiating through February and March contrary to speculation there would be a break for campaigning.
"I’m ready to continue with (Talat) negotiating, despite the elections," said Christofias. "This is our common desire, this is our common decision."
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