US diplomat urges ‘Cypriot solution’ to Cyprus issue

January 15, 2009, Thursday/ 19:46:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

The solution to the decades-old Cyprus problem "must be a Cypriot solution," a senior US diplomat has said, while also noting that the United States will not get directly involved in negotiations for a Cyprus solution.

Matthew J. Bryza, the US deputy assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs, yesterday had talks on the divided island with both Turkish Cypriot President Mehmet Ali Talat and Greek Cypriot Presidential Commissioner George Iacovou.

"My country has been modest and quiet and listening and ready to provide assistance wherever we can. After my visit here, I have the opportunity to go to Ankara, where I would like to build on whatever I learn here, to try to further understanding between the two sides in a modest, quiet way," Bryza was quoted as saying by the online English-language daily the Cyprus Mail.

Stressing that the US did not "aspire to be part of" the negotiations, Bryza said, "The solution which will come will have to be designed and built exclusively by the people who live here in Cyprus and must be a Cypriot solution."

Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Talat started reunification talks in September to end a partition dating from 1974. Last week, Talat said they made considerable progress on two important issues concerning the governance of a reunified island in the future.

Bryza also said the international community viewed 2009 as "a decisive year" and welcomed the serious progress of the talks so far, the Cyprus Mail reported.

Analysts expect 2009 to be tough for Turkey's EU membership process due to a 2006 decision from the bloc. Suspending accession negotiations on eight chapters in 2006 because of Turkey's refusal to open its air and sea ports to traffic from Greek Cyprus, the EU has agreed to review the situation this year. Ankara has accused Greek Cypriot leaders of using their veto rights over Turkey's bid to join the EU.

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