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POLITICS: Leaders agree to meet to unravel deadlocked Cyprus talks

11 October, 2018

A rare meeting between rival Cypriot leaders will be arranged by the United Nations in the coming days to kick-start Cyprus reunification talks stalled for 15 months.

Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades said on Friday the United Nations will host a meeting with his Turkish Cypriot counterpart in a move to break the current deadlock.

An UN-backed peace summit collapsed in failure at a Swiss mountain resort in July 2017, there have been no official negotiations since then.

The last time rival Cypriot leaders tried to get the talks back on track was at a social dinner in April but both men agreed to disagree on the way forward.

On Friday Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades said his Turkish Cypriot counterpart Mustafa Akinci was “positive” towards a meeting under UN auspices.

“A meeting will be arranged through the UN in the coming days, depending on the schedule, because next week I will be in Brussels. So, on my return a date will be found for a meeting," Anastasiades said after talks with Cyprus’ UN chief of mission Elizabeth Spehar.

He said the leaders meeting was not a signal that Cyprus talks were resuming.

“As leaders of the two communities we will simply exchange ideas, our thoughts, reflections, what the future holds, our prospects and how we can finally achieve a solution that’s sustainable and functional,” said Anastasiades.

The United Nations has made clear it will not fully engage in a new peace process unless Cypriot leaders are committed into entering negotiations in a spirit of compromise.

The last talks aimed at reunifying the island as a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation collapsed in Switzerland last year after the UN chief failed to get the parties to agree on a post-settlement security arrangement for Cyprus.

It was the first time Cyprus talks involved the guarantor powers of Britain, Greece and Turkey.

Under the island’s 1960 treaty of independence, the three countries secured intervention rights to safeguard the island’s sovereignty, but the Greek Cypriots want these scrapped while the Turkish Cypriots are reluctant to do so.

The other stumbling block is that Anastasiades wants all Turkish troops to leave the island after a solution is reached while Akinci is opposed to this idea.

Rival Cypriot leaders failed to revive their divided island's moribund peace process after an UN-backed informal dinner date in April – their only meeting since the failed summit.

The UN is reluctant to step in while both sides seem miles apart in finding common ground.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third in response to a coup sponsored by the military junta then ruling Greece.

Tensions in the region heightened after Nicosia stepped up its search for natural gas reserves, a move opposed by Turkey.

The EU -- of which Cyprus is a member state while Turkey is not -- condemned Turkey’s actions in the eastern Mediterranean in trying to block oil and gas exploration in Cyprus’ maritime zone.