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UN chief Guterres sees 'historic opportunity' for Cyprus talks breakthrough

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he believes there is "a historic opportunity" for a breakthrough in talks aimed at reuniting Cyprus. The two sides have been trying to strike an accord for decades.

Guterres - the new UN chief - will be chairing a conference in Geneva from January 12 with the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders and Cyprus' three guarantors - Britain, Greece and Turkey - that to find an agreement on post-settlement security arrangements, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

The secretary-general "appealed to all parties to use this opportunity to find creative and mutually acceptable solutions that address the concerns of both communities," Dujarric said.

The conference will follow three days of talks between the island's Greek Cypriot president, Nicos Anastasiades, and breakaway Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci.

"We're at a very decisive phase in the Cyprus peace talks," Dujarric said. "At this point it's really about being supportive of the process and seeing how the parties can finally bridge the final gaps."

Guterres met Thursday with Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and late Friday afternoon with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias.

Kotzias called it a "very nice" meeting but refused to comment on the Cyprus talks.

The 1974 split

The island was split into a Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish Cypriot north in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by Cypriot supporters of union with Greece.

Turkish Cypriots declared an independent state in 1983, but only Turkey recognizes it and keeps 35,000 troops there.

The island joined the EU in 2004, but only the Greek-speaking south enjoys full membership benefits.

Watch video 06:02

Cyprus: An island hoping for unity

Combating sex abuse allegations

Guterres also said on Friday he would focus on combating sexual abuse in peacekeeping, announcing plans to map out a new "game-changing" strategy to address the problem.

Guterres - who took over from Ban Ki-moon on January 1 - named a nine-member task force to come up with a new approach.

UN peacekeeping missions have been hit by dozens of allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation, but troop-contributing countries have been reluctant to prosecute those accused.

"It's about how we react, how we put the victims at the center and it's about accountability," said Dujarric.

Some 100,000 troops and police from 123 countries serve in UN peacekeeping.

jbh/kl (AP, AFP)

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