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Greek-Turkish Cypriot Leaders Conclude 'Spirited' Talks

United Nations Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon, right, meets Cypriot President Demetris Christofias, left, and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu, second from left, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010 at United Nations headquarters. (file)

The latest round of UN-mediated talks aimed at reunifying the divided Mediterranean island of Cyprus have failed to achieve the hoped for breakthrough. But, UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon says progress is being made.

This is the first time since November that the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders have met. The last meeting in UN headquarters in New York ended without much optimism. There was no sign a permanent solution to the decades-long division of Cyprus was in the offing.

In hopes of keeping these faltering talks alive, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon asked the Cypriot leaders to come here to Geneva. He asked them to come with a list of core issues that needed to be resolved and with a practical plan for achieving this.

At the end of the meeting, an upbeat Secretary-General described the meeting as spirited and substantive. He said progress has been made in moving the negotiations ahead.

“Based on discussions today, it is clear that the two leaders worked to move closer together through a range of bridging proposals, notably in the chapters of Economy, EU matters, Governance and Power-Sharing," Ban said. "Nonetheless, more work must be done to reach further convergences on the outstanding core issues.”

Cyprus has been divided since 1974. That is when Turkish troops invaded the island, following a Greek inspired Cypriot coup. Numerous efforts have been made since then to achieve an agreement on reunification. All have failed.

Hopes for a breakthrough were greatly raised in 2004, just before the Greek part of the island joined the European Union. But, these hopes were dashed when the Greek Cypriots turned down a UN-drafted reunification plan, which the Turkish Cypriots overwhelmingly supported.

The most difficult issues facing the talks include property rights, territorial adjustments and security. Both sides are discussing the possibility of establishing a federation between the two administrative zones.

The Secretary-General says the sides have agreed to intensify the negotiations through a series of additional meetings in the coming weeks.

“As recent surveys have shown, both communities in Cyprus want more than talks; they want a solution," Ban said. "The leaders have heard that message and they are acting. I welcome the steps that the leaders have taken today, which give a clear indication of their commitment to reunifying Cyprus as soon as possible.”

Mr. Ban says he will present a report on the state of the talks to the Security Council at the end of February. He says he is certain he will have a positive report to submit if the constructive spirit he witnessed in these talks continues.