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Cyprus Settlement 'Overdue' - Barroso

cyprus reunification talksEuropean Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has called on Cyprus' leaders to intensify negotiations, saying that a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem is overdue.

Speaking ahead of today's meeting between Cyprus leaders Demetris Christofias and Derviş Eroğlu and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Geneva, Barrosos said:

"More than seven years after Cyprus' accession to the European Union a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprusproblem is overdue. A mutually agreed settlement will be the basis for the long expected reunification of the country and end one of the oldest conflicts on European soil."

A breakthrough in the talks is necessary, and the leaders can "count on the strong support of the European Comission," said Barroso.

Cyprus and EU citizens would benefit from a united Cyprus, he said.

The meeting in Geneva starts at 11am this morning, but according to statements made by both leaders earlier this week, hopes are not high that any breakthroughs will be announced. 

The UN is trying to revive the talks because according to UN Special Advisor Alexander Downer, in the last three months negotiations have moved disappointingly slowly.

"It (negotiations) could not have moved more slowly, they would have stopped if they'd moved more slowly. The last three months were the worst three months since we started these negotiations in September 2008," he said from Geneva yesterday.

Any significant breakthroughs in the talks are seen as unlikely here, with the National Council keeping a tight leash on President Christofias and Turkish-Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu still negotiating along the lines of a two-state solution.

On June 29th, Christofias and Eroglu had another face-to-face meeting, but an expected agreement on the police force and international treaties rules in a federal state was not announced.

The Greek-Cypriot negotiating position is along UN lines of a federal state with two zones and a single international identity. The negotiating team rejects a confederation on the basis that it would legitimise Turkey's invasion along with the political, financial support of the 'TRNC', the unilaterally-declared state that is only recognised by Turkey.

Recently, Christofias said that it is unlikely he will be able to report any progress to the UNSG because of Turkish-Cypriot obstinacy in sticking to a two-state solution. The Greek-Cypriot support of a federal state is already a concession to Turkish-Cypriot negotiating demands, he said.

Statements continue to come from Turkey about a solution based on two states, and negotiators in Cyprus have failed to agree on property and governance issues, both of which are key areas in any future political solution.

Still, all eyes are on the next meeting between Christofias, Eroglu and Ban Ki-moon, if for no other reason than to make sure that the two leaders do not have any 'surprises' for the entrenched political interests on the island.

And as for Turkey, no new negotiating chapters have been opened in its EU negotiations. One of the reasons is that eight chapters are frozen over Turkey's refusal to recognise the Republic of Cyprus, an EU member state since 2004. So, no solution in Cyprus means no progress for Turkey's EU ambitions.

Untangling the Gordion Knot of the Cyprus problem has challenged diplomats since 1960, and for the time being, there's no magic solution in sight.


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