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UN Tries to Revive Faltering Cyprus Peace Talks


United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (R) speaks with Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias (C) and his Turkish Cypriot counterpart Dervis Eroglu (L) following their meetings at United Nations headquarters in New York, January 25, 2012

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (R) speaks with Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias (C) and his Turkish Cypriot counterpart Dervis Eroglu (L) following their meetings at United Nations headquarters in New York, January 25, 2012

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has acknowledged U.N. talks on Cyprus have ended with little tangible progress, but added he may call an international conference in late April or early May on a settlement to resolve the division of the island.

This latest trilateral summit between Ban Ki-moon and the leaders of divided Cyprus was supposed to have been the high point in the U.N. effort to push the long-bickering foes forward with their sluggish peace talks.

Negotiations between President Demetris Christofias, who heads the internationally recognized Greek-Cypriot government, and Turkish-Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu have effectively stalled, and are in jeopardy of collapse.

Commentators originally believed that the U.N. chief might succeed in Cyprus where others had faltered, but he acknowledges major issues, such as property abandoned by displaced Greek Cypriots then occupied by settlers from mainland Turkey, remain unresolved.

"Discussions over these two days were robust and intensive, although limited progress was achieved. I reminded the leaders that this process is Cypriot-owned and Cypriot-led," said the U.N. chief. "The United Nations is not here to impose solutions on the sides."

The Cyprus talks will continue in Nicosia, and Mr. Ban has said Special Adviser on Cyprus Alexander Downer will assess the situation in March.

If Downer's assessment is positive, the United Nations intends to call an international conference on the Cyprus issue, which could include Greece, Turkey and Britain.

Failure to agree on a deal could spell the end to future U.N.-sponsored dialogue and both community leaders have stressed that there is "no plan B."

Such is the pessimism surrounding this process, that the leading English language daily Cyprus Mail ran the headline “Partition step by step,” just prior to the talks, adding that “the two sides have made next to zero progress since the first Greentree meeting in October 2011.”

Attempts to reunite Cyprus have been ongoing for more than 30 years, with the latest round of talks launched in 2008.

For close to four decades, Cyprus has been one of the most troublesome problems faced by the United Nations. But U.N. peacekeeping force spokesperson Michel Bonnardeaux says he believes the differences between the two sides can be bridged.

"An agreement is certainly possible. This last round of talks has lasted a little over three years now, and it is certainly the U.N.’s point of view that an agreement is possible given sufficient political will,” Bonnardeaux said.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded the northern part of the island in response to a military coup that was backed by the Greek government. Cyprus joined the European Union in 2004, and the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is only recognized by Turkey.

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