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Erdogan, Turkish Cypriot Leader Urge Greek Cypriots to Step Up Peace Efforts

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) and newly elected Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci inspect a military honor guard of in Ankara, Turkey, May 6, 2015.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the newly elected north Cypriot leader said on Wednesday that renewed peace talks between Cyprus's estranged Turkish and Greek communities could lead to a solution this year if the Greek side shows more commitment.

"We will make efforts to make 2015 year of the solution, but this doesn't depend just on us," Mustafa Akinci said after a meeting with Erdogan in Ankara.

It was their first meeting since Akinci was elected on April 26, pledging fresh impetus in solving the conflict which has split the Mediterranean island for decades.

Though welcoming Akinci's election, Greek Cypriots say any Cyprus settlement is contingent on Turkey, which bankrolls Turkish Cypriots and has some 30,000 troops in the heavily militarized breakaway state.

At a joint news conference, Akinci and Erdogan said they aimed for a speedy resumption to stalled peace talks and called on Greek Cypriots to take steps toward peace.

"It is time for the Greek Cypriots to show sincere efforts as well," Erdogan said. "If that happens, we believe it is possible for 2015 to be the year of solution".

Akinci is due to meet Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades to revive peace talks, which stalled last October, although an initial meeting was postponed.

Erdogan showed no sign of animosity towards Akinci, days after criticizing him for suggesting relations with Turkey should be on more equal footing.

"Who's the one fighting for northern Cyprus in the international community? Does Mr. Akinci believe he can put up this fight on his own?" Erdogan had said at the time, adding that Turkey would continue to view northern Cyprus as a "mother looks at its child".

Cyprus was split in a Turkish invasion in 1974 triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup. The Greek Cypriot-controlled south represents the whole island in the European Union, although membership is in political limbo in the north, a breakaway Turkish Cypriot state.

While communication between Greek and Turkish Cypriots was severed for years, Akinci was an exception. As mayor of the ethnically split Cypriot capital Nicosia in the 1980s, he and his Greek Cypriot counterpart worked on a plan for the city, with the hope it would be reunited.