UN Chief Gives January Deadline For Cyprus Peace Progress

"Serious differences" remain between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders over how to reunite their divided island, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday after talks.

Ban said he will decide on the future of the U.N. peace initiative after a new meeting in Geneva in January with Greek Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot President Derviş Eroğlu.

Christofias, Eroğlu and Ban held talks at the U.N. headquarters in a bid to break deadlock over the island, which has been split since 1974.

"Both leaders have told me they recognize the need to move more quickly and decisively in order to reach a settlement. Serious differences remain, but both leaders expressed their commitment to work together, as partners, toward that goal," Ban told reporters.

The three will review progress again in Geneva at the end of January. "That, in turn, will help the United Nations to determine its own next steps," the U.N. chief said.

"We will go to that meeting in goodwill and will make our contribution to overcoming the difficulties," Eroğlu told reporters through his official interpreter.

"I cannot know now what the decision of the secretary general will be in Geneva at the end of January. He may decide one way or the other; we cannot tell what his evaluation will be," the head of Turkish Cyprus said.

The Mediterranean island has been divided since Turkish troops intervened in 1974 in response to a Greek Cypriot coup seeking union with Greece.

Ban said that the latest talks had concentrated on governance and power-sharing in any reunified administration, the economy, European Union membership, property, territory and security.

Ban said that when he visited Cyprus this year, "I could feel the hope and expectation among people on both sides for a settlement that would finally reunify Cyprus. Real progress was being made in the talks.

"That sense of anticipation has faded, however, as talks continued throughout the remainder of the year without clear progress or a clear end in sight.

"That is why I invited the leaders to meet with me today. The peace talks on Cyprus were losing momentum and needed a boost if the two sides are to reach a settlement while there is still the time and the political opportunity to do so."

After several thwarted U.N. initiatives since 1974, the current mediation effort started two years ago. Ban said last week that "a solution was long overdue," in a sign of the growing international frustration at both sides.

Some European nations are becoming impatient because the Greek Cypriot government is holding up increasing amounts of European Union business because of the dispute, diplomats said.

The talks are important for Turkey because the divided island has become a key obstacle in its efforts to progress its bid to join the EU.
Hurriyet Daily News