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European Union

Cyprus leaders meet in Geneva to negotiate peace deal

Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades has started talks with his Turkish Cypriot counterpart Mustafa Ankinci to discuss the reunification of the country. The talks are expected to last all week.

Over the coming week, Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci are expected to touch upon the issues of power-sharing, territorial adjustments and security adjustments in their meetings which began Monday. Turkey has 30,000 troops stationed in northern Cyprus.

The leaders were also expected to discuss land rights - a thorny issue in a country where thousands have been displaced in past conflicts. Both sides also need to outline proposals for the future boundaries of their two states.

The UN is also to be represented in the discussions by envoy and former Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide. However the agency will only facilitate, not mediate between the two sides, Eide told journalists, adding that a peace deal would be "difficult, but it's possible."

"The leaders are showing a lot of courage, a lot of will," he said. "We are now in the final moment. We are now really in the moment of truth. This is actually where we will find out if this can be solved," Eide added.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier hoped both sides would reach an agreement. "If there is a breakthrough, it would be great news, not only for the people of Cyprus but for all of Europe in the region," he said.

Akinci (left) arrived with UN envoy Espen Barth Eide in Geneva on Monday

Akinci (left) arrives with UN envoy Espen Barth Eide in Geneva on Monday

Negotiations to intensify later this week

The talks were scheduled to be expanded on Thursday to include representatives from Britain, Turkey and Greece, and the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also discussed Cyprus in talks lasting more than an hour on Monday, according to a Greek official. "Concerning the process, the Greek Prime Minister expressed the view to the Turkish president that he will travel to Geneva only if it is apparent there is a possibility of a deal," he told journalists.

Britain, Turkey and Greece are the guarantor powers of Cyprus according to a treaty signed in 1960, when the island gained independence from Britain. In 1974, the island split after Turkey invaded the country following a brief coup reportedly backed by Greece.

No specific date has been set for the peace agreement, UN envoy Eide said, urging the islanders to "seize the moment" to make peace happen. After a draft plan had been approved by both sides, it would be put up for voting by citizens in a referendum. In 2004, a UN reunification plan was approved by Turkish Cypriots, but rejected by their Greek counterparts.

mg/jm (Reuters, AFP)

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