The leaders of both sides of ethnically divided Cyprus began new unification talks on Monday but sought to temper hopes of a swift breakthrough, though its U.N. envoy said a deal to resolve one of Europe's most enduring conflicts was within reach.
Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci and Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, launched a week of consultations in Geneva to tackle dozens of disagreements stemming from the 1974 division of the Mediterranean island. The talks will focus initially on how to handle property disputes stretching back more than 40 years.
|Overview of the European headquarters of the United Nations before the start of the Cyprus reunification in Geneva, Switzerland January 9, 2017. Picture taken through a window. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
But with several past reconciliation efforts having failed, both leaders have been careful this week to cool expectations of a quick fix. The United Nations special envoy for Cyprus also said on Monday that the talks were open-ended.
"We are now in the final moment. We are now really in the moment of truth. This is actually where will find out if this can be solved," said Espen Barth Eide, a Norwegian diplomat appointed to the U.N. envoy's job in 2014.
"I'm not saying on a specific date. Because it's open-ended," told a news briefing, urging islanders estranged for decades to "seize the moment".
The talks are scheduled to broaden on Thursday to include Britain, Greece and Turkey, the guarantor powers of Cyprus under a convoluted treaty foisted upon the former colony when it became independent from Britain in 1960.
Their concerns will include security, and specifically the role Turkey and its 30,000 troops stationed in northern Cyprus will play in any reunification of the country as a two-state federation.
The rival sides are poles apart on that issue.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan discussed Cyprus by phone for more than an hour on Monday, a Greek government official said.
"Concerning the process, the Greek Prime Minister expressed the view to the Turkish President that he will travel to Geneva only if it is apparent there is the possibility of a deal.
"The two agreed to reassess the situation on the eve of the conference," the official said.Reuters