Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis telephoned US Secretary of State Colin Powell to report little progress in week-long UN mediated talks for a deal to allow a united island of Greek and Turkish Cypriots to join the EU on 1 May.

   

But the message from Tuesday night's meeting at Buergenstock in Switzerland between Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Costas Karmanalis was they had not given up hope.

   

Tuesday's earlier talks cleared two major hurdles - agreeing negotiations should go on until Wednesday's final deadline and receiving EU advice that the proposed settlement fitted into its law, an issue which had been a stumbling block.

 

Convincing

   

A Greek official said Karamanlis and Erdogan came away from the meeting - their second contact this week - convinced both wanted to end the 30-year-long divide of Cyprus, an ever present irritant in relations between the two NATO members.

   

"Karamanlis said there are problem points but there are efforts to find ways for the best possible solution," the official said. "We are in a middle of a long procedure. This issue does not close tonight."

   

Molyviatis had a more downbeat message for Powell who has assured all sides the United States strongly believes a peace deal is in everyone's interests.

 

"We are in a middle of a long procedure. This issue does not close tonight"

Unnamed Greek official

The Greek official said Molyviatis told Powell "there are problematic issues and until now there is no great progress".

   

The main disputes concern how many Greek and Turkish troops will remain on the island, rights to property and freedom of movement between the two sides as well as the rule of EU law.

 

Cyprus has been split since 1974 when Turkey invaded the north of the island in response to a Greek Cypriot coup backed by Greece.

   

No deal at Buergenstock would still send the plan to referendums on both parts of the island on 20 April. If it is not approved by one or the other side, only the internationally recognised Greek Cypriot government would join the EU on 1 May.

   

This could cement the island's partition and harm Turkey's own hopes of becoming the first Muslim state to join the EU.