U.N. hopeful of Cyprus deal by year end-envoy

By Michele Kambas

NICOSIA (BestGrowthStock) – The United Nations special envoy for Cyprus expressed hope 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 don’t know. But they can do it.”

Cyprus was split in a Turkish invasion in 1974, triggered by a brief Greek inspired coup. Greek Cypriots live in the south, and run an internationally recognized government which represents the whole island in the EU. They vow to block Turkish entry into the EU as long as the island remains divided.

Turkish Cypriots live in its north running a breakaway state recognized only by Ankara.

Downer, who oversees meetings between Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu and Greek Cypriot leader Demetris Christofias, has in the past avoided statements on when talks could conclude.

While saying Tuesday that he hoped most work would be concluded this year, he said the U.N. had never laid out a specific timetable for the conclusion of the talks.

“DOABLE”

“Its definitely doable. Its not beyond the wit of man to solve the Cyprus problem,” said Downer, whose complex of offices in a U.N. compound sits within sight of an international airport abandoned in fighting in 1974.

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 U.N. is planning to prepare a report offering a “frank assessment” of where negotiations stand next month.

“If they can reach basic convergences on the property chapter that would be an enormous step forward,” he said.

(Editing by Noah Barkin)

U.N. hopeful of Cyprus deal by year end-envoy