UN hopeful of Cyprus deal by year end, says envoy

September 30, 2010, Thursday/ 17:48:00/ REUTERS
The United Nations special envoy for Cyprus expressed hope on Tuesday that a deal on the divided island could be brokered by the end of the year, healing a decades-old conflict threatening Turkey's bid to join the EU.

Alexander Downer, a former Australian foreign minister who took over as Cyprus special envoy in 2008, said he was convinced leaders of the two rival Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities wanted a deal, but that compromise was required from both sides. "It would be good to get the bulk of the work done by the end of the year," Downer told Reuters in an interview. "Just in terms of the negotiations they can do it, whether they will I dont know. But they can do it."

Downer, who oversees meetings between Turkish Cypriot leader Derviş Eroğlu and Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias, has in the past avoided statements on when talks could conclude. Discussions on relinking Cyprus as a federation is a convoluted muddle involving questions of power-sharing, the re-mapping of boundaries and how many of Cyprus's thousands of internally displaced can return to their homes.

Downer said good progress had been made on governance and power-sharing. Discussions were now focused on property. The UN is planning to prepare a report offering a "frank assessment" of where talks stand next month.

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