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Media Watch 2007

04 May 2007
Source: Cyprus Weekly
Author: Menelaos Hadjicostis
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Mail of Nicosia on 4 May 2007.
July 8 still alive
THE UN quashed all speculation that the July 8 accord has irretrievably broken down and affirmed international backing for the only process capable of paving the way to fresh reunification negotiations.

"‘THE UN quashed all speculation that the July 8 accord has irretrievably broken down and affirmed international backing for the only process capable of paving the way to fresh reunification negotiations.

"There’s been a lot of speculation that the process is dead. It’s not dead, it’s very much alive, it’s just an ongoing process that is organic and that I hope will soon bring some results," UN Chief’s Special Representative in Cyprus Michael Moller told reporters on the sidelines of a UN-sponsored civil society fair yesterday.

"Whether there are results or not is entirely up to the two sides. Once they agree, we are ready as I have said for a long time now, to start any day."

Moller said that in the absence of a viable substitute, technical committee talks are the only means available to get the deadlocked reunification process back on track.

"I’m very hopeful that we should be able to move very soon. I also want to say that the process that we have built together over the past 15 months is the only one that is in play right now."

The UN official said given support for the process is universal, there is no reason for any further delay in getting the committees up and running.

US hope
"Everybody supports it, both sides have said they want to continue with it, the international community has said they want to see it happen, the (UN) Secretary General wants to see it happen, the Security Council, so, frankly if everybody is in agreement, there really shouldn’t be any reason why we can’t move very soon."

US Ambassador Ronald Schlicher articulated international support for the July 8 accord and expressed hope the parties would "find a way to kick off" the process.

Moller said his upbeat appraisal is grounded in his understanding that the gap separating the two sides is much smaller than even they perceive.

"I think that there are so many issues on which there is agreement, the (difference in) positions of the two sides (is) perhaps less big then either side understands, or believes or sees, there’s a lot of commonality."

Moller will again mediate another round of talks between Presidential Diplomatic Office Chief Tassos Tzionis and the Turkish Cypriot leader’s top adviser Rasit Pertev scheduled for this Monday.
The UN official denied Turkish Cypriot media reports that Pertev unveiled a new set of proposals on kick-starting the process at last week’s meeting with Tzionis.

"It’s just a continuous elaboration of the work we have been doing, refinement, discussion, and it’s part of the process," said Moller.

But the a steady stream of negative rhetoric belied Moller’s optimism as an ongoing blame-game over whose responsible for the deadock refuses to fade.

President Tassos Papadopoulos said international pressure is bearing down on the Turkish side to stop baulking and to get set the July 8th accord in motion.

Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat accused the Greek Cypriot side of exploiting the process to play for time, giving a dour assessment over prospects for a breakthrough.

“The possibility of getting a result is weak, difficult…We are ready to make any kind effort but having a result is difficult as long as the Greek Cypriot side’s wish to receive more concessions by cornering Turkey over its EU entry course continues," Talat was quoted as saying.

Talat’s spokesman Hasan ErAakiAa went a step further to suggest that Nicosia was trying to kill off the process because it could not achieve a favourable Cyprus settlement.

But that line of argument clashes with the fact that technical committee talks were a Nicosia initiative culminating in the UN-brokered, July 8 2006 accord to utilise the process as a vehicle for a return to full-fledged reunification talks.

The deal envisaged setting up committees assigned the task of tackling the day-to-day concerns of both communities including policing and environmental issues.

Tandem working groups would meet to brainstorm ways of finding middle ground on the more contentious, core aspects of Cyprus issue.

The entire process would serve as a preparatory phase to ensure no snags in formal talks would scupper what Nicosia perceives as a last chance at a settlement.

But it’s understood Turkish Cypriot reluctance to engage in technical committee talks stems from fears it would dash any hopes of reviving a moribund Annan Plan.

Diko deputy leader George Kolokassides the accord effectively removes the rejected UN reunification blueprint as the basis of a Cyprus settlement.

"We believe that July 8th achieves exactly this purpose, in other words it distances us from the Annan Plan as a basis for a Cyprus solution," said Kolokassides.

Moreover, the Turkish Cypriots refuse to include property issues on the working groups agenda for fear that it would stymie illegal Greek Cypriot property development in the occupied north."