Turkey, United Nations welcome deal on Cyprus peace talks

Turkey, United Nations welcome deal on Cyprus peace talks

The Turkish Foreign Ministry and U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon welcomed late on Friday a decision by the Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders to begin full-fledged talks on ending the 44-year-old division of the Mediterranean island. Both Greek and Turkish Cypriot media on Saturday voiced cautious optimism of a breakthrough in efforts for reunification. the island. (UPDATED)

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Turkey is pleased that the two leaders decided during their meeting to start comprehensive negotiations on September 3, the ministry said in a written statement as Ban also hailed Cypriot leaders' decision and pledged his full support for their efforts.

Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat and his Greek Cypriot counterpart Demetris Christofias earlier on Friday set September 3 as the date when they will begin direct negotiations to end the Cyprus problem. 

During a two-hour meeting at the UN-controlled Nicosia airport, they also decided that the results hammered out between them will be put to referendums in their two communities.

Reunification talks in the island have been deadlocked since 2004, when Greek Cypriots rejected a U.N. reunification blueprint in a referendum, in which Turkish Cypriots approved the so-called Annan plan. Cyprus has been divided since 1964 when Turkish Cypriots forced to withdraw into enclaves.

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The ministry said Turkey always supported the start of comprehensive talks within the framework of the good will mission of the U.N. Secretary General in an effort to reach a settlement in Cyprus issue based on U.N. parameters such as a bi-zonal state structure, political equality and a new partnership to be formed by two founder states.

Turkey hoped the activities of technical committees, which were launched upon the efforts of the Turkish Cypriot party, would yield positive outcomes, it added.

"The secretary-general warmly welcomes the agreement today ...to launch full-fledged negotiations on September 3 aimed at reaching a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem," U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas told a press briefing.

She said in a statement that Ban commended "the (Cypriot) leaders for the progress made so far and takes this occasion to reiterate the full support of the United Nations for their efforts toward a mutually acceptable solution."

She added that during his visit to the island next week, U.N. special adviser on Cyprus Alexander Downer would discuss with Cypriot leaders how the United Nations can best assist the process, AFP reported.


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The head of the European Commission said Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders' recent decision to start full-fledged negotiations was an important step towards a solution that would be accepted by both parties and that would pave the way for the reunification of the island.

EU welcomed the decision to start negotiations and to take new confidence-building measures in Cyprus, Jose Manuel Barroso said in a statement.

A unified and integrated Cyprus would benefit not only Cypriots, but the EU as a whole, and added the union was ready to extend all kinds of support that would be requested by the parties within the scope of negotiations, he said in the statement. 

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"It's obvious that the start of talks does not mean that the difficulties and obstacles have been surpassed," AFP quoted on Saturday the Greek Cypriot mass-selling Phileleftheros newspaper.

"We will adopt a wait and see stance in the hope that this time a new effort, a new process will lead to a Cyprus solution," Phileleftheros said, adding that negotiations will initially focus on power-sharing.

"The difficult part starts now," wrote the right-wing Simerini, adding that Turkey's stance on Cyprus must also be more positive for there to be tangible progress, AFP reported.

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The staunchly pro-Christofias newspaper Haravghi heralded a "new phase" in long-thwarted efforts to bring peace to the island. "Whatever anyone’s ideological beliefs at this hour we should all rally round Christofias for the savior of Cyprus," it was quoted by AFP.

The mass-selling Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris hailed Friday's agreement but insisted that Christofias and Talat must show both will and determination in order to reach a solution.

Halkin Sesi, another Turkish Cypriot newspaper, said the two communities must forge confidence-building measures, and warned that failure would spell doom for Cyprus.

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