There is hope for the solution of the Cyprus problem, UN Special Adviser on Cyprus Alexander Downer has pointed out, reiterating that the peace process needs to be “Cypriot-led and Cypriot owned”.

Downer was speaking Monday evening on “The UN; does it need reform?” ahead of his meetings today with President of the Republic Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu.

UN Special Adviser is then going to travel to New York on the 17th of March for consultations with the UNSG Ban Ki-Moon. Downer plans to stay in New York until the 21st of March and is going to brief Ban on his meetings with the community leaders and the prospects of resuming negotiations for the reunification of the island.

In his lecture, Downer noted that the two communities in Cyprus, working together, need to achieve a bizonal, bicommunal federation. Referring to the latest round of negotiations, which came to a halt last June, the UN official said that former President Demetris Christofias made an effort as did some of his predecessors, however they have not succeeded.

“President Christofias and Mr. Talat (former Turkish Cypriot leader) and later Mr. Eroglu,  they didn`t come up with a complete agreement but they made some progress in these negotiations”, he added, stressing that he looks forward to talking to new President Anastasiades and hearing what he has to say.

In his statements Downer also referred to the Annan Plan, a UN proposed solution plan put before the two communities in separate referenda in 2004 , which was rejected by 76% of Greek Cypriots. The Turkish Cypriots approved it.

“You don`t want us to impose on you the solution. There is a perception that the Annan Plan was an attempt by the UN to impose a solution on Cypriots, which they rejected by 76% of Greek Cypriots. The Annan Plan is a classic case of clever people coming up with a solution they saw to a problem, which was rejected by 76%”, he pointed out.

The UN Envoy underlined that it is really important to look at the detail, and in particular to look at where the two sides fundamentally disagree with each other. He went on the say that the two sides “don`t disagree on everything, there are a lot of things they agree on”.

“When you get into the details, whether there would be a rotating presidency, how many settlers you are going to allow, where do you draw the boundaries between the two federated units of Cyprus and what about property, it is there that you get into real difficulty and relay points of disagreement”, he said.

Alexander Downer stressed that there is hope and possibility, saying characteristically that “I wouldn`t do this job if I thought there was no hope”.

Replying to a question about lack of impartiality by UN staff and how this contributes to eventual failures by the UN, Downer said that he has dealt with three UN SG and he would not call them particularly biased or people with deep agendas.

“I don`t think it’s the people who work for the UN. It’s the member states that make the decisions, it’s the SC members that make the decisions. I think it is quite wrong to criticize the staff of the UN”, he added.

Downer said that the weakness of the UN and the strength of the UN are determined by its membership, not by its staff.

He referred to UNFICYP-the UN force which arrived in Cyprus in March 1964 after inter-communal fighting broke out. He described UNFICYP as one of the real success stories of the UN, noting that since the 1974 Turkish invasion, Cyprus as an island has largely been in peace and people have not been dying in combat since that time.

“UNFICYP has made a huge contribution to, at least, an unsatisfactory – I know – peace on this island. The Cyprus problem has not been solved and I think and the UN think it needs to be solved”, he concluded.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. The latest round of direct talks began in 2008 with the aim to reunite the island under a federal roof.

The negotiations, which produced little progress, came to a halt last June when the Turkish Cypriot side withdrew from the negotiating table, before Cyprus resumed the Presidency of the Council of the EU July 1st.


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