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Cyprus talks resume amid renewed hope

Leaders of the Turkish and Greek parts of Cyprus have resumed the UN-brokered peace talks after an eight-month hiatus. The latest round has been boosted by the election of pro-reunification Turkish Cyprus leader Akinci.

Friday's round of

Cyprus talks

are being held at a United Nations compound in Nicosia's buffer zone, and are officiated by UN special envoy Espen Barth Eide.

Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and recently-elected Turkish Cypriot president Mustafa Akinci are looking for a breakthrough in peace negotiations, which stalled in October last year.

"I have high hopes for our prospects and the future," Anastasiades told reporters before the start of the meeting.

The aim of the initial session is to agree on the structure and frequency of the forthcoming meetings.

The island formally split into two in 1974 when Turkish troops invaded the northern part in response to a coup by supporters of Cyprus' union with Greece. The Turkish Cypriots had already pulled out of government institutions in 1963 in response to communal violence; by 1983, they declared their breakaway state.

Cyprus was given European Union membership in 2004, but it only applied to the southern Greek region. The northern part, heavily dependent on Turkey's support, is only recognized by Ankara.

Renewed hope

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has welcomed the resumption of negotiations in a statement released by his spokesman in New York.

"With the momentum continuing to build for a solution to the long-standing division of the island, the secretary general salutes the commitment of the leaders to move forward without delay," read the statement.

"The secretary-general calls on the leaders to seize this opportunity to achieve tangible progress towards a comprehensive settlement that would clearly benefit both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots," it added.

Washington also hailed the talks and expressed its "willingness to assist the process in any way the parties find useful."

The election of Akinci

- who supports reunification as Turkish Cyprus' president has reinvigorated hopes for a settlement.

Akinci defeated nationalist Dervis Eroglu in the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus' presidential elections in April.

Akinci then angered Ankara by demanding more independence for Turkish Cypriots from Turkey.

If an agreement on reunification is achieved, the accord will have to be put to the people of Cyprus for a vote.

shs/msh (AP, dpa, AFP)

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