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Cyprus heads for more peace talks
Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders announce more discussions on reunification for June.
Last Modified: 23 May 2008 23:33 GMT
Christofias, right, and Talat, left, said that there were problems that still needed ironing out [AFP]

Rival Cypriot leaders have agreed to hold a new round of talks in June after a meeting aimed at boosting the momentum for a fresh UN-brokered push for peace on the divided island.
 
Friday's discussions were a follow-up to a session in March between Demetris Christofias, the Cyprus president, and Mehmet Ali Talat, the Turkish Cypriot leader.
After more than three hours of UN-hosted talks in Nicosia, Cyprus' capital, Talat and Christofias admitted that there were problems that still needed ironing out but agreed to meet again next month to reassess progress.
Working group
 
Christofias' election in February, followed by the talks in March, had raised hopes for reunification efforts which have stagnated since the failure of a United Nations peace plan in 2004.

In a statement, Taye-Brook Zerihoun, UN chief of mission in Cyprus, said: "The leaders decided to come together again in the second half of June to make a new assessment."

"The leaders today had genuine and fruitful discussions and reviewed the results achieved pursuant to the 21st of March agreement" to set up a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation, he said.

The statement said that Talat and Christofias had "instructed their representatives to examine within 15 days the results of the technical committees".

It added that the "representatives will consider civilian and military confidence-building measures", including opening new crossing points between the two sides of the divided island.

Date unclear

Although formal peace talks are scheduled to start on June 21, Talat did not confirm the date.

He said: "This is a difficult question, actually. We are going to make an assessment in the second half of June when we come together. You know we have different views on this issue. We continue to have views on this matter."

Christofias also spoke of problems but said there was a will to overcome them.

He said: "We decided we are going to handle those problems and push representatives of both communities in the working groups to work intensively to overcome these problems."

Slow progress

After the euphoria generated by the March meeting, the Greek Cypriots have voiced worries at the slow pace of progress despite the creation of the working groups to tackle the core issues.

The Cyprus Mail, an English-language newspaper, said that the Greek Cypriots felt that not enough has been accomplished by the working groups to allow the formal negotiations to begin with the Turkish Cypriots next month.

One Western diplomat told the AFP, the French news agency, that Friday's talks would give Christofias and Talat a chance to take "stock and agree when full negotiations start".

He said: "The honeymoon period was a bit overdone and now the doom and gloom is also being overdone. There are going to be problems, we don't see how it could be otherwise."

Christofias was elected on a platform for
finding a solution to the island's division [AFP]

Christofias was elected in February on a platform of finding a solution to the island's division, paving the way for the international community to refocus its attention on Cyprus after several years of inactivity.

The island has been divided along ethnic lines since 1974 when Turkish troops occupied its northern third following an Athens-engineered Greek Cypriot coup aimed at uniting Cyprus with Greece.

Three decades later the UN drew up a reunification blueprint known as the Annan Plan.

This failed when it was overwhelmingly rejected by Greek Cypriots in a 2004 referendum even though it was backed by Turkish Cypriots.

Source:
Agencies
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