UN chief backs Cyprus peace talks
Ban Ki-moon visits ethnically-divided island to boost ongoing negotiations.
Last Modified: 01 Feb 2010 14:18 GMT
Ban Ki-moon said he is confident the island's two leaders can make a breakthrough [AFP]

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, is visiting ethnically-divided Cyprus in an effort to boost peace talks between the island's Turkish and Greek leaders.

The UN chief is holding meetings with Dimitris Christofias, the Greek Cypriot president, and Mehmet Ali Talat, his Turkish counterpart, in two separate meetings on Monday.

Hundreds of Turkish Cypriot demonstrators urged Ban to push for a peace deal as he entered Nicosia, the island's divided capital, earlier in the day.

"Peace on Cyprus cannot be blocked ... Peace, democracy, federation," protesters chanted, holding up signs saying "Solution Now!".

'Solution is possible'

Ban said he is confident the island's two leaders can make a breakthrough in the ongoing peace talks, which in 16 months have only made marginal progress.

"Reaching a mutually acceptable conclusion will require courage, flexibility and vision as well as a spirit of compromise," Ban said as he arrived in Cyprus on Sunday.

"I am under no illusion that the Cyprus problem is easy to solve or about the difficulties that you face. At the same time, I am confident that a solution is possible and within reach," he said.

Cyprus was divided in a Turkish invasion in 1974 triggered by a short-lived Greek-inspired coup. Decades-old attempts to resolve the conflict have failed.

Kofi Annan, Ban's predecessor, travelled to Cyprus eight years ago and urged the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities at the time to seize a "historic opportunity."

But the Greek Cypriots later rejected Annan's reunification blueprint in a referendum, ensuring Cyprus joined the European Union still divided in 2004 despite a Turkish Cypriot referendum approving Annan's plan.

Failure to reach a Cyprus settlement is also proving an obstacle to Turkey's own EU ambitions.

The latest UN-led effort has also struggled to produce tangible results since it was launched amid much optimism in September 2008.

The two sides remain far apart on the core issues of property, security and territorial adjustments.

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