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UN chief’s Cyprus visit: boost or bust? February 5, 2010

Posted by Yilan in Cyprus, Turkey.
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U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s trip to war-divided Cyprus was meant to speed up lumbering reunification talks but discord Tuesday over a meeting venue soured Ban’s visit.Ban met Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat in his presidential office in northern Nicosia Monday, rather than in his official residence.

That drew protests in the Greek Cypriot south, where people viewed the choice of venue as implying recognition of Talat’s breakaway government.

Greek Cypriot party leaders, including some from Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias’ ruling coalition, boycotted a reception in honor of Ban. Christofias demanded _ and received _ a U.N. statement saying the venue had “no political significance.”

Also Tuesday, Christofias was taken to the hospital after complaining of feeling unwell. Government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou said initial tests at Nicosia General Hospital showed nothing of concern, but more would be carried out.

The controversy over the meeting venue ensured that nothing substantial would come of Ban’s visit, said University of Nicosia International Law professor Tim Potier.

“The atmosphere generated by Ban Ki-moon’s meeting in Talat’s office almost certainly made it impossible to make any announcement of significance during the news conference,” Potier said.

Ban urged “more courage and determination” from both leaders.

A government spokesman praised the trip.

“Our evaluation is that the U.N. secretary-general’s visit was successful and has given impetus to peace efforts,” government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou said.

Cyprus was split into an internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish Cypriot north in 1974, when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of union with Greece.

Christofias and Talat have held unification talks since Sept. 2008 but have agreed on little beyond their mutual will to reach an agreement.

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