Peace talks on Cyprus to shift into higher gear

NICOSIA (AFP) – Rival Cypriot leaders agreed yesterday to intensify the United Nations-led peace process next month in efforts to reunify the long-divided island in 2010.

“On the occasion of their last meeting of the year, the two leaders extend to all Greek and Turkish Cypriots their best wishes for the New Year and express their strong hope that 2010 will be the year of solution of the Cyprus problem,” a UN statement said.

President Dimitris Christo-fias, a Greek Cypriot, and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat want to step up the pace after 15 months of sluggish UN-brokered negotiations.

They have agreed to meet six times for marathon talks over a two-week period, on January 11, 12, 13, 18, 19 and 20, said the joint statement issued by the UN. It said the leaders will aim “at more convergences” on the issues of governance, power sharing, the economy and EU matters. Discussions on the prickly property rights chapter will also be on the agenda.

These sessions will take place at the UN Chief of Mission Taye-Brook Zerihoun’s official residence, which is located inside the Nicosia buffer zone close to the capital’s disused airport. Before the marathon talks, the leader first meeting of the new year will be on January 4.

“I certainly think it can be done during the course of the next year,” UN envoy Alexander Downer said on Saturday. However, Downer said next month was crucial to the process succeeding. “There really needs to be good progress in January.”

Date : 22/12/09