Cypriot Foreign Minister, Markos Kyprianou expressed cautious optimism regarding the direct talks between Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat at a meeting with Greek Australian media last Thursday.

Mr Kyprianou voiced the Cypriot government’s satisfaction that at least a process is in place which “is moving ahead with talks despite certain difficulties.”
He noted that lately there has been a shift in Turkey’s stance towards the Cyprus problem.

“Turkey has now recognised the existence of a problem and understands the need for reaching a solution,” Mr Kyprianou said.

“We haven’t agreed on the solution yet, but at least we are now past Turkey’s previous position – up until 2003 – that the Cyprus problem had been solved in 1974,” clarified the Cypriot Foreign Minister.

Turkey in the past maintained the view that the problem had been solved with the partition of Cyprus after the invasion and occupation of the northern part of the island in 1974.

However, Mr Kyprianou added that Turkey still needs to position itself constructively towards reaching a solution on the basis of the UN resolutions for the creation of a bizonal and a bicommunal Federation, “something which we haven’t seen yet,” stressed Mr Kyprianou.

Asked about the role of former Australian Foreign Affairs Minister, Alexander Downer, Mr Kyprianou replied that the Cypriot government is overall pleased, but rushed to point out that the United Nations’ role is only to assist and not to intervene in the process. Alexander Downer was appointed last year as the UN’s Secretary General Special Adviser on Cyprus.

“At times, in some of his statements he may sound a bit more optimistic than us but that is logical because that is his role to keep the process [moving] on a fast pace,” Mr Kyprianou said referring to Mr Downer.

The Cypriot Foreign Minister outlined the positive elements in the current environment: The fact that for the first time since 2004 there is a process in place and that the Cypriot government has been credited with good will. Moreover, procedural hurdles of the past have been alleviated, he said, with the direct talks facilitating the possible agreed solution by both communities instead of the 2004 experience of a mediated solution.

“Already we have started to agree on a few issues ,” revealed Mr Kyprianou.

In 2004 the then Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan had presented the two communities with the so-called Annan plan that was overwhelmingly rejected by Greek Cypriots in a referendum.

When asked if the personal good relationship between Mr Christofias and Mr Talat is an ameliorating factor in the process, Mr Kyprianou admitted that it is helpful “not so much for reaching a solution but for easing the tension that may arise occasionally.”

Questioned about the new US administration and it’s potential role on the Cyprus problem, Mr Kyprianou stated that although Washington takes interest on the Cyprus issue it’s not one of its priorities.

The Cypriot Foreign Minister made special note of the contribution of the Hellenic Diaspora here in Australia saying that Cyprus is depending on its help as its influence may sometimes be more effective compared to conventional diplomatic channels.

Mr Kyprianou visited the devastated areas from the Victorian bushfires last Wednesday accompanied by Whittlesea Mayor Mary Lalios.
On the same day he met with members of the Cypriot community in Melbourne.

Similar meetings took place in Sydney and Adelaide and tomorrow he is expected to meet with his Australian counterpart Stephen Smith.

Their talks are expected to revolve around the Cyprus problem, regional issues of mutual interest in the Middle East and the South Pacific as well as strengthening bilateral economic ties. A press conference will follow their meeting. Mr Kyprianou will also meet with the Greek community in Canberra and depart for Cyprus on Wednesday.