Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders are due to resume U.N.-sponsored peace
talks next week. The talks were canceled after a border-spat between
Turkish Cypriot police and Greek Cypriot pilgrims. If successful, these
peace talks, which have been running since last September, could
formally end the 35-year division of the island.
President Demetris Christofias, who represents the Greek Cypriot community, will meet Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat on September 10.
The Greek Cypriots canceled the latest session Thursday after Turkish Cypriot authorities held up a bus convoy of Greek pilgrims for lengthy security checks as they sought to cross the dividing line between the communities. The Greek Cypriots had been headed for a religious service in a church in the Morphu area.
The man who took the decision to pull the plug on the talks is Greek Cypriot Presidential Commissioner George Iacovou. He says the incident had soured the atmosphere and time was needed for reflection.
"I think the atmosphere was very charged, the atmosphere we require for the talks is one of tranquility, one of understanding and we thought this didn't prevail and we thought we both need time to reach that tranquil atmosphere - so we said we would postpone that meeting," said Iacovou.
Australia's former foreign minister Alexander Downer is the U.N. special envoy for Cyprus. He expressed disappointment at the development, but remained upbeat.
"Obviously we are disappointed with the events that have happened over the last couple of days, I've made that clear," he said. "There's been a bump in the road here, but it will be good to get back to the talks - there will be good days and bad days, as there always are in these sorts of negotiations. There is a lot at stake here; there is the future of Cyprus at stake here, so this is not a small matter."
The leaders are under pressure to achieve a breakthrough before the EU summit in December, when Turkey could be sanctioned for its refusal to open its ports and airports to Cypriot traffic.
Turkey's bid to join the European Union hinges on a peace deal in Cyprus.
The Turkish Cypriot north and the Greek Cypriot south have been engaged in U.N.-led comprehensive negotiations since late last year.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded the island in response to a coup in Nicosia by supporters of a union with Greece.