Cyprus leaders to decide whether to embark on peace talks

The two leaders of the ethnically divided island of Cyprus were set to meet again on Friday to decide whether the conditions were favourable to launch direct reunification talks, reported dpa.

Cyprus President Dimitris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat have held several meetings to discuss progress made by working and technical groups striving to set the groundwork for the start of peace talks to end the decades-old division of the island.

The working and technical groups from both communities are trying to narrow the divide on a number of issues ranging from environmental protection, health, security, power-sharing, culture, ways of linking the island's two economies as well as property and territory disputes.

Christofias has been vague about giving a starting date, saying it would depend on the results of Friday's meeting while Talat recently signalled that a September start to full-fledged negotiations was likely.

The start of peace talks would end a four-year deadlock after former president Tassos Papadopoulos led the Greek Cypriot rejection of a UN reunification plan in a referendum in 2004. Turkish Cypriots overwhelmingly voted in favour.

With newly-elected Christofias in office, expectations are running high for a breakthrough in peace efforts to reunite the island which has been divided since 1974 after Turkey invaded the northern third in response to an Athens-led coup to reunite the island with Greece.

In an effort to illustrate their commitment to peace, both Christofias and Talat in April opened a north-south crossing point in the heart of the divided capital, which had come to signify the island's division.

Only the southern part of Cyprus is a member of the European Union, while the Turkish Cypriots have repeatedly called on the bloc to end an economic embargo on the northern part of the island, which is only recognized internationally by Turkey.

The two divided sides of Cyprus have agreed in principle to rejoin the island as a federal state composed of two constituent states which will guarantee the equality of both communities, but until now have not been able to agree on a procedure.

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