Cyprus Talks Set To Continue Through Elections - UN
Speaking after last night's working dinner meeting between President Demetris Christofias and Turkish-Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu, Downer said that the discussion focused on the way forward over the next couple of months. An upcoming meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon was also on the agenda, said Downer.
It was a very useful occasion, but also a very friendly and very warm occasion," said Downer.
Nonetheless, there is a long way to go in the talks, he said.
"As I have always said before with these talks, they go in fits and starts. You can go every couple of weeks and it looks sort of fairly tough and then suddenly you’ll go a couple of weeks when things move forward," said Downer.
During the last leaders' meeting, Christofias and Eroglu came closer to an agreement on internal security and the future federal police force, but in previous weeks, each meeting had ended in disagreement; over a joint population census and over citizenship issues.
"There is no doubt that after the last two weeks things have moved forward," said Downer.
Reportedly, the leaders' representatives agreed that any international agreement made by the separate administrations would be respected if they were not against a possible agreement to the Cyprus problem.
"There was some very good progress on...the issue of international treaties. And last week [there were] some very good discussions also, and good steps forward on the issue of internal security," said Downer.
But according to government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou, no formal agreement has been reached on international treaties.
"That which was agreed is the process under which the issue will be discussed, and the terms for the terms of reference for the sub-committee," said Stefanou.
Censuses will be separate
On the issue of the census, both sides are committed to holding them, even though they will be separate, said Downer.
"Both sides have said they are willing to have some United Nations' involvement...if you like, to give credibility to the censuses," said Downer.
The UN does not have a position on the census issue, he said: "it's not our business. We have said that we are happy to help them with the censuses."
Yesterday, Downer came under considerable fire from political parties for appearing to take the position that the censuses could only be carried out with UN approval.