Britain Offers Concessions to Push Cyprus Reunification
Britain Offers Concessions to Push Cyprus Reunification

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Britain has offered to give up half of the land occupied by its sovereign military bases in Cyprus if the divided island's leaders can seal a reunification deal. 

In an attempt to show they are serious about supporting a solution to the protracted Cyprus problem, Britain has renewed an offer to cede about half the territory of its bases in Cyprus.

In an interview with VOA News, U.N. Spokesman Jose Diaz confirmed a letter had been sent to the United Nations pledging to transfer 45 square miles if a Cyprus settlement can be found.

"The special advisor of the secretary general was informed by the United Kingdom," he said. "The main condition is that there first has to be a settlement and it has to be ratified - then the land will be handed over."

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is expected to unveil the initiative to try and  kick-start the Cyprus peace process at a meeting with Cypriot President Demetris Christofias at Downing Street.

The British sovereign bases were retained in Cyprus after the proclamation of the independent republic in 1960, some 4,000 troops and 7,000 dependents are live on the territory.

Speaking to VOA, Stuart Bardsley, the British Military spokesman in Cyprus outlined the function of the military bases.

"Well we are talking approximately about 99 square miles, and its sovereign base area which is land which is effectively governed by the UK and has an on-island administration that acts on behalf of the Queen in managing and governing that land," he said.

President Demetris Christofias, who represents the Greek Cypriot community and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat have been locked in talks since late 2008, but so far little has been achieved.

Fully-fledged negotiations opened last September and if successful, these peace talks, could formally end the 35-year division of the island.  

Cyprus was split into a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north and an internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south in 1974 when Turkey invaded in response to a short-lived coup by supporters of union with Greece.

Turkey does not recognize the south.

The island joined the European Union in 2004, but only the Greek Cypriots enjoy membership benefits.

Neither side sees permanent partition as an option, but they are struggling to agree on how the island will be reunited.

The president also dismissed any notion of arbitration or strict timetables in the ongoing peace process.