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Cyprus leaders agree to return to reunification talks: Guterres

Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders agreed Sunday to return to the negotiating table later this month in a new bid to clinch a historic deal on reunifying the island.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced the new round of talks following a four-hour dinner meeting with the two leaders at UN headquarters in New York.

Guterres had invited Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades and his Turkish Cypriot counterpart Mustafa Akinci to salvage a two-year diplomatic effort aimed at achieving a settlement in Cyprus.

Flanked by the two leaders, Guterres told reporters after the lengthy meeting that all three had “agreed on the need to reconvene the conference on Cyprus in June.”

No firm date was announced, but Guterres said he would consult with Britain, the European Union, Greece and Turkey on the timing.

The UN-led talks hit a wall nine days ago after the sides failed to agree on the terms to advance the reunification talks toward a final summit.

The eastern Mediterranean island has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded its northern third in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece.

Swiss Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter (2nd-L) poses with Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci (L), Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades (C) and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (2nd-R) on the sideline of the Cyprus Peace Talks in Geneva, January 12, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

The Greek Cypriot side demanded that the withdrawal of Turkish troops be discussed at the conference in Geneva as part of security arrangements.

The UN-led talks hit a wall nine days ago after the sides failed to agree on the terms to advance the reunification talks toward a final summit.

The eastern Mediterranean island has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded its northern third in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece.

The Greek Cypriot side demanded that the withdrawal of Turkish troops be discussed at the conference in Geneva as part of security arrangements.

But the Turkish Cypriots maintained that the conference should focus on broader issues of power-sharing, property rights and territory for the creation of a new federation.

Turkey maintains some 35,000 troops in the north of the island.

In January, an international conference on Cyprus had opened in Geneva with representatives from Britain, Greece and Turkey — the island’s three guarantor powers.

The talks had been widely seen as the best hope yet to reunite Cyprus.

But on May 26, UN envoy Espen Barth Eide was forced to admit that lingering differences were blocking the convening of a second conference on finalizing a deal.

Arriving at UN headquarters, Akinci told reporters that “the reason why we are here is the impasse created by one side’s insistence on putting forward pre-conditions.”

Anastasiades hit back, saying “I am not here for a blame game” and voicing hope that the meeting could “pave the way for a constructive dialogue, in order to reach, not just progress, but a settlement.”

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