Cyprus leaders to meet over summer holidays in search of peace deal
Cyprus leaders have agreed to continue meeting over the summer holidays, the United Nations said Thursday, after nearly two years of peace talks that have made little progress, dpa reported.
Cyprus has been been divided since 1974 into an internationally recognised Greek Cypriot south and a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north, after Turkey invaded the northern third of the island in response to a Greek-inspired coup.
Greek Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias and his Turkish Cypriot counterpart, Dervis Eroglu, resumed peace talks in May after a two-month break for elections which saw hardliner Eroglu replace the more moderate Mehmet Ali Talat.
Cyprus' president has said the Turkish Cypriots have hardened their stance in the long-running talks to reunify the divided island in contrast to public statements by both Turkey and Eroglu calling for a peace deal to be reached by the end of the year.
Despite the limited progress, the Special Advisor to UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon, Alexander Downer, said "both leaders are showing a lot of commitment to meeting and talking through the issues."
"The leaders have agreed to three meetings through the summer holiday month of August. I would say that's a pretty good sign of the level of their commitment," Downer told journalists.
Turkey still maintains 45,000 troops on the island, and a UN force of 850 troops patrols the Green Line, or buffer zone, which divides the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south and Turkish Cypriot north, which is recognized only by Turkey.
Despite progress on governance and power sharing, months of negotiations between the two communities have failed to bridge the gap of more difficult issues, including property, security and territorial adjustments.
Any agreement between the two leaders will have to pass a referendum on both sides of the island.
Eroglu, who has repeatedly expressed his desire for Turkish Cypriot independence, defeated Talat in presidential elections in April. Greek Cypriots want one state with two self-administrating areas.
Greek Cypriot voters overwhelmingly rejected a 2004 UN reunification blueprint in a referendum, despite a Turkish referendum approving the plan.
European Union officials have said that progress at the Cyprus reunification talks is essential to helping Turkey's slow-moving EU accession process move 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. dpa cp ms Author: Christine Pirovolakis