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Anastasiades Sees Cyprus Talks Resuming, Briefs Samaras On Progress

Greek Premier Antonis Samaras (L) with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades
Greek Premier Antonis Samaras (L) with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, who said talks with Turkish Cypriots to reunify the island were likely dead, said there are some signs of life again and that he now sees “serious prospects” for the two sides to sit down again and resume serious negotiations if they can only agree on what to talk about. The failure to agree on the wording of a joint commique was blocking talks on how to bring together the island that has been divided since an unlawful 1974 invasion by Turkey, which still occupies the northern third where it keeps a standing army as a deterrent. “It appears there are serious prospects for a substantive joint statement which would satisfy the basic principles governing a Cyprus settlement, and lead to a resumption of negotiations,” Anastasiades told journalists in Nicosia after briefing Greek-Cypriot party leaders. The Cypriot President added that talks were at a “delicate point.” He had blamed his Turkish-Cypriot counterpart, Dervis Eroglu, for intransigence for refusing to even talk about a joint statement and insisting that only Turkish demands would be considered. In a statement from his office, Eroglu said, “We appear to be at the final stage of efforts that started quite a while ago to continue negotiations and draft a joint statement.” The Turkish Cypriot press reported that the aim is for Eroglu to meet Anastasiades on Feb. 10. They’ve only met once, at a brief dinner that resolved nothing. He met in Athens on Feb. 7 with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to brief him on the progress of the United Nations-mediated negotiations, a frustrating process that has thwarted envoys for decades and has led the UN’s recent representative, Alexander Downer, to say he’s given up trying to get the Cypriots and Turks to talk seriously. Anastasiades indicated that Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders were close to drafting an “essential joint communique” that could provide the basis for a new round of talks aimed at reaching a “viable, lasting and functional settlement” on the island that respects human rights and European Union laws. “It is likely we will soon finalize a joint statement,” the Cypriot leader told a joint press conference with Samaras. That would be only the ground rules on the talks. Samaras said the Cyprus problem was “the top-ranking issue of Greek foreign policy” and reiterated the country’s support for Cyprus, even though Greece supports Turkey’s bid to join the European Union when it has refused to recognize Cyprus, which is already a member of the EU, and bars Cypriot ships and planes. Samaras said it remained a “common goal” to end “the island’s illegal Turkish occupation” and welcomed a joint communique which, he said, should be put to simultaneous referendums to both the Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot communities. Cypriots in 2004 rejected the so-called Annan Plan to reunify the island even though Turkish-Cypriots passed it overwhelmingly.

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