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U.N. envoy says Cyprus deal within reach May 25, 2010

Posted by Yilan in Cyprus, Yunanistan.
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The United Nations said on Tuesday a reunification deal on ethnically-split Cyprus was within reach, sounding an upbeat note on the eve of peace talks interrupted for Turkish Cypriot elections won by a nationalist.

Greek Cypriot leader Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu start negotiations on Wednesday after a two-month hiatus for elections which saw Eroglu replace moderate leader Mehmet Ali Talat. A deal in the talks is crucial for Turkey to join the European Union.

“There is no doubt that a Cyprus solution is doable,” said Alexander Downer, the U.N. envoy for Cyprus who acts as a facilitator in negotiations held at a compound straddling a buffer zone separating Cyprus’s Greek and Turkish populations.

“It is certainly possible. It is not beyond their grasp, it is within their reach,” Downer told reporters. Turkey invaded Cyprus’s north in 1974 after a brief Greek Cypriot coup engineered by the military then ruling Greece.

The conflict is a source of bitter dispute between long-time rivals Greece and Turkey, and its resolution is key to Turkey joining the European Union.

Greek Cypriots represent Cyprus in the 27-member bloc and say Turkey cannot join until there is a reunification deal on the island. Turkey’s EU membership negotiations have been partly frozen because of the stalemate on Cyprus.

The objective of the peace talks is re-linking the island as a federation. Eroglu advocates greater independence for his community, which run a breakaway state in north Cyprus recognized only by Ankara. Greek Cypriots want one state with two self-administering areas.

The two communities had made progress in power-sharing and governance issues under the previous Turkish Cypriot administration. Greek Cypriots have been unnerved at past declarations from Eroglu seeking stronger autonomy, though the U.N. says it has a commitment from him that talks will resume from where they left off.

“To achieve an agreement will require a great deal of political strength, courage and will by both sides, determination to make sure they are able to strike an agreement,” said Downer.

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