Leaders launch new round of Cyprus peace talks
Rival leaders on the divided island of Cyprus launched a new round of peace talks Monday, aimed at ending the decades-old division of the eastern Mediterranean island, DPA reported.
Greek Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat launched the two-day marathon session, with a plan to meet again January 25-27.
Cyprus has been been split since 1974, ever since Turkey invaded the northern third of Cyprus in response to a Greek-inspired coup.
Greek Cypriots currently live in the south of Cyprus and Turkish Cypriots in the north, divided by a United Nations-supervised buffer zone, or No Man's Land - which runs through the heart of Nicosia.
The intensive meetings are designed to jump-start talks with the hope that 2010 will be the year that the Cyprus problem is finally solved.
Experts have expressed fears that the two leaders, which started renewed peace talks in September 2008, have little time left, with elections in the occupied northern part of the island expected to bring to power a hardliner.
EU officials have said that progress at the Cyprus reunification talks will be essential to move Turkey's slow-moving EU accession process forward.
Although the peace talks and Turkey's EU membership negotiations are separate processes, a breakthrough on one is likely to have a positive impact on the other.
Talks are focusing on power-sharing under a future federal structure, property, the economy and EU issues.
But Greek Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas said that recent proposals by the Turkish Cypriots that reportedly include separate rights to sign international agreements and control of the Mediterranean's airspace "have taken the process backwards."
The Greek Cypriots have called the proposals "unacceptable" and stressed that they could not be included in the agenda of negotiations.