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Greek Cypriots Not Happy With UN Representative

Alexander Downer

Alexander Downer

There's growing dissatisfaction among Greek Cypriots with the performance of Alexander Downer, the UN secretary-general's special adviser on Cyprus.

According to an article in the "Sydney Morning Herald," Downer spends very little time in Cyprus and is being viewed by the Greek Cypriot leadership as more occupied with his business consultancy than with efforts to negotiate a common ground between the divided Greek and Turkish Cypriots.

Downer was appointed a UN special adviser in July 2008; prior to that he served as Australia's foreign minister.

Downer faced harsh criticism from the Greek Cypriots after UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon agreed during a visit to the divided island in January to meet with the Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat at his official quarters rather than at his home, as was apparently previously agreed.

Greek Cypriots are sensitive to any move that can be viewed as providing even the appearance of legitimacy to the self-established Turkish republic in northern Cyprus.

Some Greek Cypriot leaders see Downer as "a problem" and are calling for his resignation.

But Ban Ki-Moon has remained firmly behind Downer. Responding to an enquiry about Downer's "missteps" in Cyprus, Martin Nesirky, the UN secretary-general's spokesperson, said on February 22: "He's doing an extremely tough job and he does it extremely well. He has in fact the confidence of both the Turkish-Cypriot leaders and the Greek Cypriot leadership."

Nesirky said that in a complicated situation like the situation in Cyprus one is always going to find people who are prepared to say publicly that they don't like the person who is mediating a solution for a complex issue and that even the most skilful negotiator is never going to satisfy everybody.

Meanwhile, in other UN news, apparently the international body is getting more kudos from Americans these days.

According to a Gallup poll conducted in February, 31 percent of Americans believe the United Nations is doing a good job in solving the world's problems.

Still low, but better than last year's 26 percent approval and the best since 2005.

Americans have never ranked the UN particularly highly. The average historical approval rating was around 40 percent with a record high of 58 percent (according to the Gallup poll) in 2002.

According to Gallup, registered Democrats are twice as likely to approve of the UN (45 percent) as Republicans (22 percent).

-- Nikola Krastev

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