GENEVA - Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders are meeting in hopes of wrapping up a deal to reunite the island of Cyprus, which has been divided for more than four decades.
Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974 following a failed coup by Greek Cypriots who sought a union with Greece. A peace deal to reunite the Mediterranean island has remained elusive, despite numerous efforts over the years.
Espen Barth Eide, the U.N. special adviser of the secretary-general on Cyprus , says he is hopeful this time will be different. While some issues remain outstanding, he says he believes the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders are committed to resolving them.
Talks moving in right direction
Eide says the talks are moving in the right direction and the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities would be wise to make the most of this opportunity.
“You cannot take for granted that frozen conflicts remain frozen forever if you do not try to deal with them when you can,” Eide said. “So, I believe that ... this whole process, these last 19 months and the coming days and maybe weeks, is a moment of opportunity that it would be very unwise to miss because I do not know, you do not know, nobody knows what will happen next, but it is not necessarily a good thing."
Few stumbling blocks remain
Eide says the Greek and Turkish Cypriot delegations will be working hard to overcome the remaining stumbling blocks. If significant progress is made, he says an international conference will be convened Thursday to try to put the finishing touches on a reunification pact.
He says Turkey and Greece will be represented at the highest level. In the lead up to the conference, he says the leaders have told him they will be watching the negotiations closely to make sure that all or most of the issues blocking the way to a final settlement have been overcome.
"They are not interested in being party to discussions that should and will be left to the Cypriots,” Eide said. “So, there is a relationship between these two things."
EU invited to observe talks
Britain, which is a guarantor of Cyprus's security along with Turkey and Greece, will be present. The European Union has been invited as an observer.
Outstanding issues include those of governance or power-sharing between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities in a future federal state, the return of or compensation for properties abandoned by the Greek Cypriots in 1974, and guarantees of security for the Turkish Cypriots after Turkish soldiers leave the island.