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Sunday, December 20, 1998 Published at 15:38 GMT

World: Europe

Cyprus talks making headway

The briefing was held in divided Nicosia

Significant progress is being made in the bilateral talks on the future of Cyprus, the UN's special representative announced on Sunday.

Dame Ann Hercus told a news conference that significant and substantive progress had been made in the eight-week diplomatic shuttle talks between opposing sides on the divided island.

She briefed journalists at the Ledra Palace, which stands on the so-called green line straddling the divided capital Nicosia.

"I have reported to the Secretary General ... that after eight weeks of shuttle talks I was genuinely encouraged by the two (community) leaders positive and constructive approach to the goals set by the Secretary General," she said.

Dame Ann, a former New Zealand Government minister, will meet President Glafcos Clerides on 12 January and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash two days later.

Media blackout

Known as a tough negotiator, Dame Ann has ordered a media blackout on the talks.

Comparing the process to fitting together the pieces of a jigsaw, she said she never tells either leader what she has discussed with the other.

[ image: Rauf Denktash: Wants international recognition]
Rauf Denktash: Wants international recognition
"Because of that privacy ideas can be explored in a way which is impossible in a public debate with the media hanging on every word," she said.

The talks have been held against a background of growing tensions in Cyprus.

Direct talks stalled last year and Rauf Denktash says he will only resume them if Turkish Cyprus is recognised by the international community. Currently, only Turkey recognises it.


Earlier this year, Mr Clerides' government threatened to install Russian-made missiles before the new year.

[ image: President Clerides Has threatened to deploy missiles]
President Clerides Has threatened to deploy missiles
In response Turkey said it would take military action if the missiles were deployed.

US special envoy Richard Holbrooke called for a halt to the plans and the UN Security Council in New York is to debate the Cyprus problem this week.

The shuttle talks are the latest in a series of attempts to reunite the island.

It has been divided since 1974 after a Turkish invasion triggered by a brief Greek Cypriot coup brought about by the then military government of Greece.

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