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Cyprus reunification talks make progress on economic issues

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Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders made more progress today on economic issues and exchanged further ideas on governance and power sharing in United Nations-sponsored talks aimed at reunifying

Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders made more progress today on economic issues and exchanged further ideas on governance and power sharing in United Nations-sponsored talks aimed at reunifying the Mediterranean island.

Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu will confer again on Tuesday and their representatives are to hold two meetings before then in the talks which began in 2008 but which Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has warned could “founder fatally” if substantive agreement is not reached within the next few months.

“The leaders have been making a big effort to… make sure that work is done well, and that convergences can be achieved on the core issues between now and 26 January,” when they are due to meet with Mr. Ban in Geneva, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser Alexander Downer told reporters after today’s talks in Nicosia, the capital. “There is quite an intense activity of meetings at both the representatives’ level and at the leader’s level.”

In a speech to the Security Council earlier this month Mr. Ban warned that “a critical window of opportunity is rapidly closing” in the talks that seek to set up a Federal Government with a single international personality in a bi-zonal, bi-communal country with a Turkish Cypriot Constituent State and a Greek Cypriot Constituent State of equal status.

He cited fundamental differences on property issues on the island, where a UN peacekeeping mission has been in place since inter-communal violence erupted in 1964, noting that Greek-Cypriot parliamentary elections scheduled for May and elections in Turkey in June militate against constructive negotiations in the second quarter of 2011.

The leaders have met 89 times since 2008, advancing in some areas, but there has been “a worrying lack of progress” in six months of talks on currently irreconcilable difference over property rights, Mr. Ban said.

The Greek Cypriots say those with property in the north should be able to seek reinstatement, while Turkish Cypriots say that if all Greek Cypriot property owners there were allowed reinstatement, it would be impossible for the Turkish Cypriots to secure bizonality. They want a ceiling on the number of those who can have properties reinstated, instead of compensation.

“We must be clear that, in order to negotiate successfully a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation, the two leaders will have to reconcile these and other seemingly irreconcilable issues,” Mr. Ban reported, calling on Mr. Christofias and Mr. Eroglu to “dedicate significant efforts” to preparing a practical plan for overcoming major remaining points of disagreement when he confers with them again next month in Geneva after an earlier meeting in New York in November.