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Greentree Meeting Starts Amid Low Expectations For Agreement

greentree 2The fifth tri-lateral meeting between President Demetris Christofias, Turkish-Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu and UN Secretary-general Ban ki-Moon is underway at Greentree Estate in New York, amid low expectations that the parties will reach an agreement on the core issues of property, territory, Turkish settlers and power sharing.

UN Secretary-general Ban ki-Moon spent six hours in 'intense' talks on presidency, property and citizenship issues with President Demetris Christofias and Turkish-Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu, said UN Special Adviser Alexander Downer from New York. There is still ground to cover before a 'successful outcome' for the meeting, he said.

"The Secretary-general made his expectations clear...that he is looking for the leaders to make decisive moves. He also reminded the two leaders that they must keep the big vision of a United Cyprus in their sights.," said Downer.

greentree 2Another six-hour meeting is set for January 24th, said Downer, who said that the UN hopes for convergences after the intensive discussions.

Christofias is negotiating under strict instruction from the National Council under which he is not allowed to agree to any deadlines or international conferences unless the fundamentals of property, governance and power-sharing are agreed.

In earlier comments, Christofias said that although the Greek-Cypriot side will willingly attend Greentree, he doubts that anything will be accomplished. The talks are based on a federal solution with a central government and one international identity, but the Turkish-Cypriot side is negotiating on the basis of two separate states, according to his statements.

If the two sides cannot agree, then there will be complete deadlock and Ban ki-Moon will have to consider the next steps and discuss them with the leaders, said UN Special Adviser Alexander Downer in earlier statements.

The issue of two states is more than a question of semantics. The Turkish-Cypriot community lives in the 'Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus' (TRNC), a unilaterally-declared 'state' in 1983 which has close ties with Turkey and claims the northern third of the island. The claim is backed by force - an estimated 35,000 Turkish troops have occupied the island since 1974.

Unwilling to give up their 'statehood' and with Turkey's refusal to withdraw its troops the situation has become a stalemate that successive generations of politicians and UN leaders have failed to solve. The thorniest issues are; what to do with tens of thousands of Turkish settlers from the mainland who have made their homes in the north; how to settle over land occupied by Turkey and usurped by Turkish Cypriots and foreigners; what form the central government and presidency would take and how voting would be conducted; and what territorial boundaries there would be between the Turkish-Cypriot and Greek-Cypriot communities.

The question of what constitutes 'political equality' also stands out as a thorny issue. With the Greek-Cypriot population at over 800,000, and the Turkish-Cypriot population at around 250,000, even the simple concept of one man, one vote has tied negotiators in knots for decades.

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