Cyprus talks 'making progress'

UN secretary-general says leaders show "commitment to reunifying Cyprus as soon as possible" during meeting in Geneva.

    Cyprus has been split since a Turkish invasion in 1974, which followed a Greece-inspired coup [EPA]

    Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, has said progress has been made in peace negotiations aimed at reunifying the divided Mediterranean island of Cyprus.

    "There has been progress since we last met in November," Ban told reporters after a four-hour meeting with the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders in the Swiss city of Geneva on Wednesday.

    "Based on discussions today it is clear that the two leaders worked to move closer together through a range of bridging proposals notably in the chapters of the economy, EU matters and governance."

    He said the meeting with Demetris Christofias, the president of the internationally recognised Greek-Cypriot government, and Dervis Eroglu, Turkish-Cypriot leader, was "spirited and substantive" which "contributed to clearing the air on several key issues".

    Ban said they would hold more talks in the coming weeks.

    "I have pledged to make myself available to them again soon to continue to take stock of progress and to encourage the parties in further narrowing the differences," he said.

    Cyprus has been split since a 1974 Turkish invasion followed a brief Greek-inspired coup. The UN guards the island's 180km ceasefire line. 

    'Outstanding issues'

    The UN chief said that the steps taken during Wednesday's airing of grievances by the leaders "give a clear indication of their commitment to reunifying Cyprus as soon as possible".

    "Based on discussions today, it is clear that the two leaders worked to move closer together through a range of bridging proposals ... Nonetheless, more work must be done to reach further convergences on the outstanding core issues."

    Core issues which have hampered progress since the UN-backed process was launched in September 2008 revolve around property rights, territorial adjustments and security guarantees.

    The two sides have stepped up their contacts since Ban warned after talks in New York on November 18 that "serious differences" remained and suggested the UN could reconsider its mediation without signs of progress.

    More than 160,000 displaced Greek Cypriots fled their homes during the invasion when Turkish troops seized and occupied the island's northern third in response to an Athens-engineered coup to join Cyprus with Greece.

    The Greek Cypriots say that everyone should have the right to return home, and that the property question can only be properly resolved once each side knows the expanse of territory they will control under a unified, federal solution.

    The Turkish Cypriots meanwhile feel that current tenants also have rights and prefer a system of compensation rather than restitution.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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