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Rival Cyprus Leaders Map Out Intensified Peace Talks

  • Associated Press

Cyprus' President Nicos Anasatsiades, right, and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci shake hands at Ledras palace crossing point in divided capital Nicosia in east Mediterranean island of Cyprus, June, 2, 2016.

Cyprus' President Nicos Anasatsiades, right, and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci shake hands at Ledras palace crossing point in divided capital Nicosia in east Mediterranean island of Cyprus, June, 2, 2016.

The rival leaders of ethnically divided Cyprus met Wednesday to take stock of where things stand in reunification talks and agreed to meet twice a week as part of an intensified phase of negotiations aiming at a peace deal by year's end.

President Nicos Anastasiades, a Greek Cypriot, and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci met at a United Nations compound in the disused Nicosia airport to outline the points they disagree on before launching the stepped-up talks. Anastasiades said this would help make talks more productive by focusing efforts on tackling disagreements.

A U.N. statement said the leaders agreed to embark on the intensified phase of talks starting June 17.

A Turkish invasion in the wake of a 1974 coup aiming at union with Greece carved Cyprus along ethnic lines. Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence in the island's northern third and maintains more than 35,000 troops there.

Anastasiades said an accord could be a "certainty'' by the end of the year if there's the will to overcome differences and to stick to an agreed-upon framework for a federation made up of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot-administered zones.

Much progress has been made in a year of talks, but key differences remain including returning private property to owners or compensating them; and Turkish military intervention rights that Turkish Cypriots insist on and Greek Cypriots oppose.

It's the leaders' first meeting after Anastasiades paused the talks over a perceived bid to diplomatically upgrade the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north.

Anastasiades was angered when Akinci attended at a dinner for heads of state during a U.N.-sponsored humanitarian summit in Istanbul at the invitation of Turkey's president despite assurances from the world body that he wouldn't show up. The Cypriot president ended the pause after talking it out with U.N. Chief Ban-Ki-moon.

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