Cyprus settlement big boost for local economy: Downer

UN Special Advisor on Cyprus, Alexander Downer has said that the preparations for the resumption of the Cyprus talks in October continue, however, no date has been set yet.

“We are now in a process of doing some preparatory work in the hope that we can restart the talks before too long and obviously we have said and the Security Council has said in its most recent resolution that the hope is that the talks will start in October”, he added.

“We don’t have a date for that. The important thing is that the preparation is properly done and the preparation is satisfactory. We, the UN are satisfied with the quality of the preparation”, he noted.

Attempts to reunite Cyprus have been ongoing for more than 35 years, with the latest round of talks launched in 2008. Despite intensive sessions, however, they failed to gain momentum and came to a halt last year.

Asked whether the negotiations will start from the point they were left off, he said that “the important thing is that there is a convergence between the two sides on exactly how the negotiations are going to work. And until that is achieved then the negotiations can’t begin so all of that work is in the process of being done“.

Downer said he continues to remain upbeat about prospects for new talks.

“We had a dinner last night, there was a good discussion at the dinner about how we are going to prepare for the initial leaders meeting but there will be a whole series of meetings at the representative level and discussions with us over the next few weeks to make sure that the preparation is properly done”, he said.

Asked about the proposal of President Anastasiades on Famagusta, he said that “this is not a matter that we discussed at all last night at the dinner. It is a matter that I discussed today with the President and it is a matter that I will be discussing with the other people including [Turkish] Foreign Minister Davutoglou when I see him on Friday”.

Downer added: “All of us in the international community including Cypriots, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, want to feel that we are not just stuck in endless negotiations that never lead anywhere”.

He also noted that “We have to find a way of putting a new spark into this process, to raising people’s hopes, to ensuring that they have reasonable and positive expectations that something at long last, after 39 years, can happen”.

“We would like in any case that there would be a new spark of excitement lit in this process, a new sense of energy, a new sense of hope and expectation and if Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, Turkey, Greece and other countries can come up with initiatives that will really give that spark then from the UN point of view that will be very welcome”, he said.

Asked whether the UN see the economic crisis that Cyprus is going through right now as an opportunity or as an obstacle for finding a solution, Downer said that some Cypriots believe that if an agreement is reached between the two sides that will lead to a very significant lift in economic confidence, it will lead to substantial new investments in Cyprus.

“People often talk about Varosha [Maras], one of the points you can make about Varosha is that it would lead to the reconstruction of Varosha [Maras] which would involve huge amount of investment, there would be compensation for properties, additional money flowing into the community from that so overall you can make an argument that a solution of the Cyprus problem would give the economy, including the Turkish Cypriot economy, a huge boost, not a small boost, a huge boost”, he said, adding that “it would of course create a better environment for the development of gas industry, for the hydrocarbons industry”.

On the other hand, he added, “some people argue that people are feeling very vulnerable at the moment and they don’t want to be bullied while they are feeling vulnerable, that is understandable as well”.

“But my overall view is that a solution to the Cyprus problem would be a huge boost to the Cypriot economy, there is no doubt about that”, he concluded.

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