Rival Cypriot leaders have agreed to resume UN-backed reunification talks after negotiations broke down in Switzerland last month.
The decision to return to the negotiating table was taken during a UN-hosted dinner for the two leaders in Nicosia’s UN-controlled buffer zone late yesterday (1 December).
It was the first time that Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades and his Turkish Cypriot counterpart Mustafa Akıncı had met face-to-face since the disappointment in Switzerland last month.
There had been mounting international pressure for the leaders to pick up where they left off in an effort to reach a deal this year.
“The leaders have decided to immediately re-engage in their negotiations and have instructed their negotiators to continue meeting in order to achieve further progress on all outstanding issues interdependently,” a UN statement said.
“In line with their joint resolve to reach a comprehensive settlement as soon as possible, they further decided that they will meet in Geneva on 9 January, 2017,” it added.
On 11 January, they will present maps of their respective proposals for the internal boundaries of a future federation.
“From 12 January, a conference on Cyprus will be convened with the added participation of the guarantor powers [Greece, Turkey and Britain]. Other relevant parties shall be invited as needed,” the UN said.
Crunch talks between the two leaders on ending the island’s decades-old division collapsed last month with the two sides still far apart on the issue of territory and no date set for a new round.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded the island in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece.
It has always been agreed that some of the territory currently controlled by the Turkish Cypriots will be ceded to Greek Cypriot control in any peace deal.
Turkish Cypriots made up just 18% of the island’s population in 1974, but they currently control more than a third of its territory.
Just how much and which land they should give up has bedevilled four decades of peace talks.
The two sides remain far apart on how many Greek Cypriots should be able to return to homes they fled in 1974, with Akıncı determined to minimise the number of Turkish Cypriots who would be displaced for a second time.
Security talks in Athens, Ankara
There are also differences over post-solution security arrangements with Anastasiades wanting all Turkish troops on the island to leave but Akıncı determined to keep a Turkish military presence.
UN envoy Espen Barth Eide was in Athens today (2 December) for talks with Greek leaders that were expected to be dominated by the issue of security and guarantees. He will travel on to Ankara for talks with Turkish leaders on Monday (5 Decembere).
Greece, like Britain, has said it is willing to give up its right of intervention as a guarantor power.
Turkey has said it is ready to discuss security issues in five-way talks but is not ready to accept preconditions.
Greek Foreign Minister Nicos Kotzias was criticised for taking a hardline on the guarantee issue between the two abortive rounds of talks in Switzerland last month.
Greece on Friday welcomed the resumption of the talks.
“Athens is going to intensify its diplomatic efforts within the framework of the European Union so that there is a convergence of views on the crucial problem of security and guarantees,” government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said.
Anastasiades and Akıncı have been among the most outspoken proponents of a deal within their own communities, but any agreement they reach will have to be approved by their respective voters.
In 2004, a UN-drafted peace blueprint was approved by Turkish Cypriots but resoundingly rejected by Greek Cypriots in simultaneous referendums.