As talks continue to find a solution to the Cyprus problem, a sense of pessimism exists in the Republic of Cyprus with fears that several cases about disputed land and property set to be ruled upon by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and the European Court of Justice (ECJ) next year will not go its way.

In a closed meeting last week, the Cyprus House Legal Affairs Committee was briefed by attorney-general Petros Clerides on the progress of cases at the ECHR and ECJ, with delegates leaving the meeting uncertain about what lies ahead for 2009.

“Of course, I cannot announce publicly what was discussed, only that it seems that as more time goes by, things are becoming more difficult for our side,” explained Committee chairman Ionas Nicolaou of the DISY party. “It looks like 2009 will be a year when much will be judged with regards to what we have known until now and this applies to generally all cases pending at the ECHR. The passing of time unfortunately, seems not to serve our case. It appears that in 2009, very serious issues for our country will be discussed.”

Not wanting to jeopardise any future cases at the ECHR and ECJ, Nicolas Papadopoulos of the Democratic party, who was also at the meeting, added: “The less said about these issues the better. It is a fact that there will be new developments in the next few days.”

OPP has learnt that the president of the ECHR, Jean-Paul Costa, will be making an official visit to Cyprus at the invitation of the Supreme Court to explain further the position of future cases involving the two parties.

Costa met with Cypriot president Demetris Christofias yesterday and is scheduled to give a speech at the Supreme Court today after a meeting with its president Petros Artemis.

Cautious optimism for negotiations

Talks are also continuing between Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, Southern Cypriot president Demetris Christofias and UN special envoy Alexander Downer, former foreign minister of Australia.

Downer expressed his “encouragement” about the progress of the negotiations between both sides which started earlier this month, however stopped short of giving a definite answer as to when he thinks a break though might be reached.

“I’m not naïve,” he said. “This is an incredibly difficult process but I am optimistic. What I’ve looked for is political will and it’s impressive. That gives me cause for cautious optimism.”

However, it seems the process could have hit another hurdle, as after Downer left for New York to report on the progress of the meetings, TRNC leader Mehmet Ali Talat broke the unofficial embargo on talking about the negotiations to any media, in an interview with the Turkish TRT news channel and in an exclusive story in Turkish newspaper Milliyet.

“It was a wrong move by Mr Talat to have given that interview, shortly after the talks,” said Cypriot foreign minister Marcos Kyprianou, according to the Cyprus Mail. “It’s ironic that Mr Talat, who had recently criticised President Christofias for making too many public statements, was the first to violate the agreement.”

According to the reports in the Turkish Cypriot newspapers, Talat hinted at a possible recognition of the north and that common ground was being found between the two leaders, with the Annan Plan used as a guideline for the talks.

“What kind of a government it will be is not that important, as the power and authority to be vested on the federal governments,” he said. “What is important is for the authority and power to be exercised by the Turkish Cypriot people. What we will do is to define only the federal powers. Once we define the federal powers, we will stop there because the rest will be the powers and authority of the founding states. Our thesis is based on the political equality of the Turkish Cypriot people and the Greek Cypriot people.”

According to the Milliyet newspaper:

What the Turkish side wants

1. That the Federal State should be administrated by a ‘presidential council’ which the parliament will elect from one single list.

2. The rotation of the president and the vice-president should last 12 months (a total of three years to Turkish and three years to Greek presidents).

3. The ‘presidential council’ shall be composed of 7 persons, 4 Greeks and 3 Turks. On the decisions taken by single majority, this should include a positive vote from two members from each community.

4. The representation of the Turkish Founding State to the House of Representatives should be one third.

What the Greek side wants

1. The Federal State should be administrated with a ‘presidential system‘. The President and the vice-president should be elected by the ‘citizens of the Federal Republic’.

2. The Presidency should be a rotating one. The Greek President should remain at the presidency for 4 years and the Turkish President for 2 years.

3. The Council of Ministers shall be composed of 9 persons, 6 Greeks and 3 Turks. Decisions for which no consensus can be reached to be taken by simple majority on condition that one member from each federal unit takes part.

4. The Turkish Federal Unit shall be represented in the House of Representatives by one quarter.

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