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Cyprus Leaders Say Committed to Peace Deal This Year

Greek Cypriot leader and Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades (L) shake hands with Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci (R), as UN envoy Espen Barth Eide looks on, in the buffer zone of Nicosia airport, Cyprus, Sept. 14, 2016.

A United Nations envoy on Wednesday said "significant progress" had been made in peace talks to end Cyprus's long-running division, with the sides committed to a deal this year.

Tensions over the eastern Mediterranean island, split since a brief Athens-inspired coup in 1974 triggered a Turkish invasion, have at times brought NATO members Greece and Turkey to the brink of war.

Espen Barth Eide, the United Nations special representative to the Cyprus conflict, read a joint statement on behalf of Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci and Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades after talks aimed at reuniting the island.

"Cognizant of the remaining challenges, the two leaders are committed to continuing and intensifying their efforts... in the coming months with the aim of reaching a comprehensive settlement within 2016," he said.

Differences on some issues still persisted, he said.

As well as a source of recurring tension between Athens and Ankara, the dispute is an impediment to Turkish aspirations of joining the European Union. It could also hamper development of large gas fields discovered in the eastern Mediterranean.

Eide said the two would meet UN Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon on Sept. 25 for further consultations.

Cyprus won independence from Britain in 1960, but power sharing between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot populations soon crumbled amid communal violence. The

Athens-inspired Greek-Cypriot coup in 1974, aimed at union with Greece, triggered a Turkish invasion that has split the island into geograpically separated Greek and Turkish territories.

One of the chief difficulties of negotiations has been settlement of property questions resulting from the movement of Greek and Turkish Cypriot populations in the 1974 war.