14 December 2013 13:41

 A resumption of UN-backed Cyprus peace talks are a long way off despite recent optimism that a deal can be brokered to get both sides back to the negotiation table, President Anastasiades said yesterday.
He told reporters that rival Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders are nowhere near agreeing a road map that would allow long stalled peace negotiation to resume.
Anastasiades insists that a joint statement needs to be agreed before the sides sit down to thrash out a peace settlement that has eluded the divided island for 40 years. When asked if the sides are close to reaching an agreement Anastasiades told reporters: “We are as far as we are close to it.”
Even the UN said that no negotiations can begin before a joint statement is agreed upon and intensive behind-the-scenes contacts have failed to produce tangible results.
UN envoy Alexander Downer was cagey after holding talks with Anastasiades on how to push the process forward.
“Once there is an agreement to start the negotiations, negotiations will begin, I am not getting into…the game of predictions or anything like that, that is not what I am paid to do,” Downer told reporters.
“These are understandably delicate times and the less we say about the substance of these issues the better,” he added.
A resumption of stalled Cyprus peace talks appears “imminent” after the divided island’s leaders made progress in resolving a standoff, a Turkish official said on Thursday.
Hopes were high that the negotiations would resume last month but they have stuttered over the wording of a joint statement due to be made by the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities outlining basic principles for the new talks.
UN-brokered negotiations were suspended in mid-2012 when Turkish Cypriots walked out in protest over Cyprus taking the European Union’s rotating presidency.
Last month, Anastasiades and Turkish-Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu met in the buffer zone but no breakthrough was made.
Ankara says the disagreement stems from the Greek Cypriot insistence on including in the joint statement key parameters of a settlement including a single sovereignty for a reunified Cyprus.
The Turkish Cypriots, who have been seeking a deal by next March, are also keen to include a timetable to ensure that the talks are not open-ended.
But Turkey is pushing for the resumption of talks without preconditions.
But the Greek Cypriots insist that both sides must be committed to a single sovereign state with one identity and personality. Anastasiades is opposed to any suggestion of a ‘two state’ solution.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who said in October there was a “window of opportunity” to break the deadlock, visits the breakaway north today.
The fate of the island remains one of the major stumbling blocks to Turkey’s negotiations with the European Union.


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