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Cyprus reunification talks collapse

The latest round of talks to reunify the two Cypruses has collapsed, as the conflicting sides failed to narrow their differences and reach a compromise.

“The conference on Cyprus was closed without an agreement being reached,” United Nations (UN) Secretary General Antonio Guterres said after a stormy final session in the early hours of Friday.

Reunification talks between Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci to end the 40-year split were halted by Guterres, who had flown in from New York for the negotiations in the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana, after the sides started yelling and making violent gestures at each other, a source close to the negotiations said.

There are currently two Cypruses, the Turkish Cyprus and the Greek Cyprus, and the two are being ruled separately. Numerous rounds of talks and generations of diplomats have attempted but failed to resolve the matter, and Cyprus has earned the nickname “the diplomatic graveyard” as a result.

Guterres, however, did not close the door on any resolution of the matter.

“Unfortunately… an agreement was not possible, and the conference was closed without the possibility to bring a solution to this dramatic and long-lasting problem,” Guterres said, adding, however, “That doesn’t mean that other initiatives cannot be developed in order to address the Cyprus problem.” He did not explain.

The latest round of the reunification negotiations had begun in 2015. It was not clear if a new round would be arranged. Guterres’ press conference only lasted three and a half minutes.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres (C), Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci (L), and Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades smile during a press conference after unification talks in Geneva, January 12, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Cyprus is a also former British colony, and the UK still retains its military bases and installations on the island. Back in 1974, Greek-allied forces staged a failed coup to annex the island, but Turkey responded militarily, and the territory has been partitioned ever since.

Anastasiades has said the withdrawal of the 30,000 Turkish troops currently deployed in Cyprus is a precondition for any agreement to reunify the Mediterranean island.

Offshore gas drilling has been a more recent bone of contention between the sides.

Turkey opposes a Greek Cypriot plan to launch a gas drill off the island in the coming weeks. The Turks pursue their own oil and gas development plans, which the Greeks are against.

“Tonight’s development is in no way positive,” said Nicos Christodoulides, a spokesman for the Greek Cypriot government, after the collapse of the talks. “But it is not the end of the road either.”

Greek Cyprus is a member of the European Union.

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