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Cyprus peace talks begin on future of divided island

Nicosia, Jan 9 (Agencies)
Published on 9 Jan. 2017 10:52 PM IST
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The leaders of Cyprus are meeting in Geneva for UN-led talks, with optimism that they can reach a settlement to end decades of division.
The UN envoy in Geneva said Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades and his Turkish Cypriot counterpart Mustafa Akinci “really want to make this work”. Previous attempts at reunifying the island have failed.
The aim is to create some kind of united but federal Cyprus where power is shared between the two communities. Cyprus has been split since Turkish troops invaded in 1974, following an Athens-inspired coup by Greek Cypriots seeking union with Greece. The northern third of the island is inhabited by Turkish Cypriots and the southern two-thirds by Greek Cypriots. Both leaders, said by diplomats to be genuinely committed to achieving a deal, acknowledge that there are key issues that still need to be thrashed out.
But if they make progress, leaders from the three countries that currently guarantee Cyprus’s security - Britain, Greece and Turkey - will join the talks.
New UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who has spoken of an “historic opportunity” for a breakthrough, will also be Geneva. UN envoy Espen Barth Eide said the two leaders still had some obstacles, but had “demonstrated a degree of will and leadership that we haven’t seen for a very, very long time in Cyprus. The neighbours including Greece and Turkey seems to be willing to be helpful, maybe even more this time than before”.
Talks have already been going on for some 19 months and significant stumbling blocks remain.
Any deal reached in Geneva would also have to backed by both communities in separate referendums later this year. An earlier UN reunification was backed in 2004 by a majority of Turkish Cypriots but overwhelmingly rejected by Greek Cypriots.

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