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Talks on Cyprus reunification take a turn for the better, says UN chief

The two sides of divided Cyprus have made progress in their peace negotiations, said United Nations head Ban Ki-moon after the latest meeting. Talks had stalled, but Ban said both sides are working to find common ground.

A wall blocking a street in Nicosia

Nicosia is the capital to both sides but remains divided

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon emerged from talks with the leaders of the two sides of divided Cyprus in Geneva on Wednesday with a renewed sense of optimism.

"There has been progress since we last met in November," Ban told reporters after the meeting with Greek-Cypriot President Demetris Christofias and Turkish-Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu. "Based on discussions today it is clear that the two leaders worked to move closer together through a range of bridging proposals."

The positive language is a change from the feeling surrounding the last talks in New York in November, when Ban warned that "serious differences" remained and said the negotiations were losing momentum. He even suggested the UN might reconsider its involvement in the talks.

Divided for decades

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded and seized the northern third of the island following an Athens-inspired coup to join Greece. The two sides are now discussing the possibility of establishing a federation with separate administrative zones for the two ethnic groups.

Christofias, Eroglu and Ban shake hands

Both sides have worked to move talks forward, Ban said

Ban said Wednesday's meeting was "spirited and substantive" and "contributed to clearing the air on several key issues." He added that both leaders had agreed to commit more energy and time to the talks in the coming weeks. They currently meet weekly in the UN compound in the buffer zone between the two sides.

One of the key stumbling blocks to the negotiations, which have been led by the UN since 2008, is the issue of property. Tens of thousands of Greek-Cypriots were displaced from their homes in the northern half of the island that came under Turkish rule. The Greek Cypriots want them all to be able to return to their homes, while the Turkish Cypriots favor compensation over restitution.

Author: Holly Fox (AFP, dpa)

Editor: Nancy Isenson

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