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UN Chief: Solution on Cyprus Within Reach

Ban Ki-moon urges the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus to show 'courage, flexibility and vision'

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is in Cyprus to encourage the leaders of the two communities to reach a solution to end the 36-year-old division of the island. The chief of the world body says a solution is within reach.

In an effort to add momentum to the U.N.-sponsored talks, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the leaders of the two communities to show "courage, flexibility and vision as well as a spirit of compromise."

"I am under no illusion that the Cyprus problem is easy to solve or about the difficulties you face. At the same time I'm confident that a solution is possible and within reach," he said.

Last month Cypriot President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet-Ali Talat began a series of three-day sessions aimed at reconciling differences between the two communities.

The leaders are under pressure to achieve a breakthrough before an election in the Turkish-controlled north, which could see hardliners defeat Mehmet Ali Talat and call for a change in the talks agenda.

Mr. Ban said he was impressed by the leaders expressed commitment to end to the decades-old dispute.

"I am impressed by the enormous personal commitments shown by the both leaders over the past 16 months," said the U.N. chief. "They have invested great time and energy for this peace process. I am pleased by the significant progress that has been achieved recently on governance and power sharing. The leadership of the Excellencies Christofias and Talat have demonstrated at this key moment, is to be highly commended."

So far, modest progress has been made on the issue of governance and power sharing of a future administration. But viewpoints on most other issues are as far apart as ever.

The Cyprus peace talks were launched amid much optimism and fanfare in September 2008, but have been widely criticized for being too slow and showing little progress.

Any agreement between the two Cypriot community leaders has to be put to a referendum on both sides of the divide.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded the northern part of the island in response to a military coup that was backed by the Greek government.