8 September 2008The top United Nations envoy to Cyprus is holding talks today in Athens with senior Greek Government officials as part of the UN’s efforts to support recently launched negotiations aimed at reunifying the Mediterranean island. Alexander Downer, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Cyprus, met with Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis and Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, UN spokesperson Michele Montas told journalists.Mr. Downer will visit Ankara on Wednesday for scheduled talks with Turkish President Abdullah Gül, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ali Babacan, before returning to Cyprus on Thursday to attend the first substantive meeting between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders as part of their full-fledged negotiations.Last week in Nicosia, Greek Cypriot leader Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat formally launched the negotiations, designed to produce a comprehensive settlement to the long-running Cyprus problem.Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a message to the launch, called the negotiations a historic step and lauded Mr. Christofias and Mr. Talat “for their seriousness of purpose, sense of compromise and commitment to seeing the peace process through to a successful conclusion.”Today he spoke by telephone with the two leaders to congratulate them personally, and he also spoke with Mr. Downer to discuss the latest developments.In May, Mr. Christofias and Mr. Talat committed themselves in a statement to working towards “a bicommunal, bizonal federation with political equality, as defined by relevant Security Council resolutions.”The partnership will comprise a Federal Government with a single international personality, along with a Turkish Cypriot Constituent State and a Greek Cypriot Constituent State, which will be of equal status.The UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) has been in place on the island since 1964 after the outbreak of intercommunal violence. It is tasked with preventing a recurrence of fighting, contributing to a return to normal conditions and the maintenance of law and order.
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