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Cyprus Talks Reap First Major Progress in More Than a Decade

  • Reuters

U.N. envoy Espen Barth Eide (C) speaks to the media while Greek Cypriot leader and Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades (R) and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci (L) look on at the United Nations offices in the buffer zone of Nicosia airport, May 28, 2015.

U.N. envoy Espen Barth Eide (C) speaks to the media while Greek Cypriot leader and Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades (R) and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci (L) look on at the United Nations offices in the buffer zone of Nicosia airport, May 28, 2015.

Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders on Cyprus agreed on Thursday to open further crossing points linking the two parts and to merge their electricity networks, a U.N. envoy said.

It was seen as the most positive sign in more than a decade that relations are thawing between the ethnically-divided sides.

Nicos Anastasiades, the Greek Cypriot leader, and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci also agreed to look at ways of linking mobile telephone grids, U.N. adviser Espen Barth Eide said.

"Mr. Akinci and Mr. Anastasiades underlined once again their shared will and determination to reach a comprehensive settlement," Eide told reporters after a meeting with the leaders in Nicosia.

Thursday's announcement reflects growing optimism that an end may be in sight for a conflict that has defied mediation for decades. Long-running peace talks, halted for seven months, resumed this May after Akinci, a leftist moderate, won the presidency in northern Cyprus in April.

"The resumption of talks is a hugely positive step. I believe there is a common vision between the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot leaders, and the ambition to make rapid progress," said Ozdil Nami, the Turkish Cypriot negotiator in talks.

Seven checkpoints linking the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides have opened since 2003, facilitating the movement of thousands of Cypriots.

Leaders said they would open two more, one in the south-east of the island close to the abandoned resort city of Varosha, and one in the more isolated north-west.

Eide said Anastasiades and Akinci "agreed on the desirability of mobile telephone interoperability".

"The two leaders want this issue to be solved," he said. Such a move could affect the profits of mobile telephone companies. Both sides charge international rates for a subscriber on one side calling a subscriber living on the other side.

Cyprus was split by a Turkish invasion in 1974 after a brief Greek-inspired coup. The Greek Cypriot south represents the island in the EU and the north is a breakaway state recognized only by Ankara.

The conflict is a continuing source of tension between Greece and Turkey and is an obstacle to Turkey's decades-old aspirations of joining the European Union.

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