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    Cypriot leaders meet amid signs of flagging momentum

    Hurriyet English with wires
    21.05.2008 - 16:16 | Son Güncelleme:

    Cyprus reunification talks expected to start this summer may be delayed by disagreements that have crept into preparatory consultations between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, Reuters reported.

    Greek Cypriot leader Demetris Christofias and his Turkish counterpart Mehmet Ali Talat will meet on Friday, their first formal encounter since agreeing in March to resume talks to end Cyprus's division. 

    Diplomats say they would watch Friday's meeting closely for any sign talks may not begin as planned in June.

    Citing "difficulties," Greek Cypriots say they have not agreed to talks without progress in preparatory consultations, throwing that summer timeframe into doubt, Reuters reported.

    Turkish Cypriots say there has been progress, and that talks should start regardless. With these opposing views, diplomats are worried the Cypriot reunification drive could lose momentum, it added.

    "We would need to shift into peace talks by mid July... or else there is a danger of this process being strangled at birth," a senior diplomat in Nicosia told Reuters.

    "On these issues we do not speak the same language, something we must do if we are to bridge differences and move on to the next phase of this process (to) fully-fledged negotiations," said Stefanos Stefanou, spokesman in Christofias's government.

    Hasan Ercakica, spokesman for the Turkish Cypriot side, said talks were not conditional. "When we agreed on March 21 to start negotiations there was no suggestion the start was conditional on progress," he said.

    Diplomats told Reuters that Greece Cypriots appeared frustrated with Turkish Cypriot tactics in the preparatory teams.  

    "The Greek Cypriots are heavy hitters; they have the freedom to operate in an independent environment. The Turkish Cypriots are coming with speaking notes. There isn't a free-flowing exchange of ideas," a diplomat said.

    Ercakica disagrees. "As far as we were concerned, the working groups were not set up to negotiate but to brainstorm, exchange ideas and gather a body of work to place before the leaders to do their work."

    Diplomats say it is imperative that an opportunity be seized on Cyprus this year, before momentum, garnered in the wake of Christofias's election in February replacing hardline Tassos Papadopoulos, fizzles out.

    "Nobody is going to say talks must start on June 21, but if the delay is too long the whole process will lose any credibility it had," another diplomat said.

     

    ENVOY MEETS IN NICOSIA

    Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot envoys met on Wednesday in the buffer zone of the divided island ahead of their leaders' meeting, the Anatolian Agency reported.

    Turkish Cypriot representative for EU and U.N. talks Ozdil Nami and Greek Cypriot envoy George Iacovou reviewed progress made by a number of working groups and committees which were set up in an initial attempt to lead the way for substantial talks to reunify the divided island of Cyprus after their leaders agreed in March to restart peace negotiations.

    The two envoys also took up the agenda of meeting between Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders on Friday.

    Photo: AFP

     

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