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20th May 2019

'Crucial day' for Cyprus peace talks

  • Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders Nicos Anastasiades (l) and Mustafa Akinci (r) with UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon (c) in Geneva before their talks in Mont Pelerin. (Photo: UN Geneva)

Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders hold on Friday (11 November) what could be a make or break meeting for a peace settlement on the island.

Friday is the last day of a five-day session of intensive talks between president of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, and Turkish Cypriot leader, Mustafa Akinci, in Mont Pelerin, Switzerland.

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It "is considered one of the most critical meetings given everything that has taken place before," Anastasiades told journalists on Thursday.

Anastasiades and Akinci, who have met regularly in Cyprus since the end of summer, moved to Switzerland to settle some of the most difficult issues of the peace talks in order to be able to reach a final agreement at an international conference later this year.

Cyprus has been divided since Turkey invaded and occupied the northern part of the island in 1974. A UN-led reunification effort failed in 2004, just before the Republic of Cyprus joined the EU.

Issues discussed in Switzerland are sensitive.

How much territory will be attributed to each community, when the Cyprus is reunited as federal bicommunal state, and property - the recovery of or compensation for properties lost by Greek Cypriots in 1974 - are key issues.

Anastasiades said on Thursday that "further progress" has been made on the property issue, but that it is "completely linked, as we had said repeatedly, with the issue of territory."

Anastasiades and Akinci had dinner with their negotiating teams, in the evening, to prepare Friday's session.

"There is a creative effort by both sides, there is a good climate, but these alone are not enough to provide the outcome. Everything will depend on the dialogue that will follow tomorrow,” the Greek Cypriot leader said.

An agreement on the territory issue is so far stalling on the drawing the map of the future two zone Cyprus, such as the area of the two entities, the number of Greek Cypriots under Greek administration or the length of each entity's coastline.

Momentum

"If it will not be possible to conclude what we seek, it will not be the end of the process; we will continue the dialogue in our homeland," Anastasiades said.

But he added that Friday would be is "the most critical day, to see if we are within reach in order to finalize or to continue our deliberations furthermore in Cyprus."

An agreement on a map or at least on the criteria would maintain momentum for a peace deal this year, which UN secretary general, Ban Ki-Moon, said was "within reach".

But the Turkish Cypriot side says it would not accept a final international conference unless a map is drawn, while the Greek Cypriot said the issue could be dealt with at the conference.

The conference would involve the two sides and the so-called guarantors of Cyprus's sovereignty - the UK, the former colonial power, Greece and Turkey.

The EU is not part of the talks. But the European Commission is already providing technical help to the Turkish Cypriot part of the island to prepare for an eventual reunification.

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