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Uncertainty Over Greentree Two After President Comments, Deadlock Fears Grow

greentree talks cyprusThere is uncertainty over a trilateral meeting between the two sides and the UN at Greentree Estate in New York after President Demetris Christofias said that there would be no point in attending if the Turkish-Cypriot side continues to reverse its positions on core issues of property and governance.

Speaking to the Turkish newspaper Huriyet and to journalists in Nicosia, Christofias said that although the Greek-Cypriot side will willingly attend Greentree, he doubts that anything will be accomplished. The talks are based on a federal solution with a central government and one international identity, but the Turkish-Cypriot side is negotiating on the basis of two separate states, according to his statements.

"I said it would not make sense (to go to Greentree), not that there is no reason for the meeting in Greentree, in the sense that we're going there to do what? To repeat ourselves again?" said Christofias.

If the two sides cannot agree, then there will be complete deadlock and Ban ki-Moon will have to consider the next steps and discuss them with the leaders, said UN Special Adviser Alexander Downer. 

The issue of two states is more than a question of semantics. The Turkish-Cypriot community lives in the 'Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus' (TRNC), a unilaterally-declared 'state' in 1983 which has close ties with Turkey and claims the northern third of the island. The claim is backed by force - an estimated 35,000 Turkish troops have occupied the island since 1974.

Unwilling to give up their 'statehood' and with Turkey's refusal to withdraw its troops the situation has become a stalemate that successive generations of politicians and UN leaders have failed to solve. The thorniest issues are; what to do with tens of thousands of Turkish settlers from the mainland who have made their homes in the north; how to settle over land occupied by Turkey and usurped by Turkish Cypriots and foreigners; what form the central government and presidency would take and how voting would be conducted; and what territorial boundaries there would be between the Turkish-Cypriot and Greek-Cypriot communities. The question of what constitutes 'political equality' also stands out as a thorny issue. With the Greek-Cypriot population at over 800,000, and the Turkish-Cypriot population at around 250,000, the simple concept of one man, one vote has tied negotiators in knots for decades.

Nonetheless, Downer said that there are no plans to cancel the Greentree meeting set for 22-24 January with Ban ki-Moon, Christofias and Turkish-Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu. Speaking after talks between the leaders yesterday, Downer said that progress has been made and the UN expects that the leaders will get down to work on bridging difference in core issues.

The two sides have produced draft outline papers on the design of a solution to the island's communal and political split, said Downer. The papers need work and will be exchanged when ready, he said.

Christofias and Eroglu also have a date for dinner tonight in the mixed village of Pyla, considered to be a model of how the island's government could work if there is a solution. Pyla is a village that is home to Greek-and-Turkish Cypriot communities which have managed to get along with each other for decades. The leaders will tour the village square, eat dinner in a Greek-Cypriot restaurant and then move to a Turkish-Cypriot restaurant for coffee and dessert.

Downer said he is looking forward to the unique event which will also be attended by UN representatives.

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