Saturday, January 8, 2011

Cyprus leaders to attend UN talks in attempt to break deadlock

President Demetris Christofias, head of the internationally recognised Greek Cypriot government, and Turkish-Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu are to have talks with Mr Ban and their own private negotiations in New York later today.

The Mediterranean island has been partitioned since 1974 and several UN mediation attempts have failed since. The current campaign started two years ago and Mr Ban said last week that "a solution was long overdue," in a sign of the growing international frustration.

Mr Ban said that the leaders "would need to show the courage required to break the stalemate on the remaining core issues," according to a spokesman.

Diplomats and UN officials have warned against expecting a major breakthrough even though there are mounting international stakes involved.

According to UN envoy Alexander Downer, the former Australian foreign minister, Mr Ban wants to use the talks to assess how willing Mr Christofias and Mr Eroglu are to make a settlement.

"No one is trying to force anything on anybody, it will be up to the two sides to make the solution in the end, we just want to know where we stand," said another UN official close to the talks.

The two leaders will meet with Mr Ban for one hour before lunch and two hours later in the day, said a UN spokesman Farhan Haq. "We will see if there is anything further after that," he added.

Cyprus has been divided since Turkish troops invaded the northern third in 1974 in response to a Greek-Cypriot coup seeking union with Greece.

Some European nations are becoming impatient because the Greek Cypriot government is holding up increasing amounts of European Union business because of the dispute, diplomats said.

The talks are also important for Turkey because the divided island has become a key obstacle in its efforts to progress its bid to join the EU.

Only Turkey recognizes the northern administration and it has kept more than 35,000 troops in the sector.

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