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01 March 2024

UN chief calls for 'decisive moves' at Cyprus talks


UN leader Ban Ki-moon on Monday held intense talks with the rival leaders of divided Cyprus and called on them to make "decisive moves" to end the decades of separation, his special envoy said.

The two day meeting on a private estate in the New York suburbs is Ban's fifth in three years with Demetris Christofias, head of the internationally recognized Greek-Cypriot government, and Turkish-Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu.

He has in the past warned the rivals that he could end UN efforts to broker a deal to end the division since 1974 unless they show more commitment to a solution.

Ban spent about six hours with Christofias and Eroglu "and I think the best way to describe the talks today is that they have been intensive right from the very beginning," said Alexander Downer, the former Australian foreign minister who has been in charge of UN efforts to bring the two sides together.

He said there had been a "heavy focus" on three core issues -- how to govern any reunited Cyprus, property disputes and citizenship.

"There is clearly still ground to cover in order to make for a successful outcome for this meeting and we look forward to a constructive day tomorrow," Downer told reporters at the Greentree Estate.

"The secretary general made his expectations clear this morning 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."

The UN's peacekeeping mission in Cyprus is one of its oldest and hopes are not high for an accord however.

Going into the talks Christofias said it would take "a miracle" to make progress.

"I am sorry to say that the conditions set by the secretary general for the achievement of convergences on the core issues of the Cyprus problem have not been implemented," he told reporters.

The UN is maintaining pressure on the two however to make concessions and Ban has made it clear that time is running out for an accord in the short term as the Greek-Cypriot government takes over the European Union presidency from July 1.

"It may be politically difficult and sensitive, when the presidency of the European Union is now going to be part of this," Ban said recently.

The United States has also pressed the two sides to make progress.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops occupied the northern third in response to an Greek-inspired coup in Nicosia aimed at union with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

If he can lay the basis for an accord at the talks, Ban would like to organize an international conference of all the countries involved to press for a permanent settlement.

Ban was to spend another six hours with the two leaders on Tuesday including a working lunch, Downer said. Ban, Christofias and Eroglu are to speak with reporters at the UN headquarters on Wednesday.