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Cypriot leaders commit to step up peace talks

May 15, 2016

The leaders of Greek and Turkish Cypriots have expressed hopes of reaching a reunification deal by the end of this year. A year has already passed since UN-brokered peace talks for the Mediterranean island resumed.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades (R) shakes the hand of Turkish Cypriot President of the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), Mustafa Akinci, following a UN-sponsored meeting at Ledra palace on May 11, 2015 (Photo: IAKOVOS HATZISTAVROU/AFP/Getty Images)
Image: Getty Images/AFP/I. Hatzistavrou

In a joint statement released Sunday, Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and the leader of the Turkish Cypriots, Mustafa Akinci, said they shared a common goal - a "win-win solution" to end four decades of division.

"We would like to underline our commitment to intensify our efforts in the coming months with the aim of reaching a comprehensive settlement agreement within 2016," the leaders said to mark a year of what they called "intensive negotiations" since the current round of long-stalled peace talks was launched on May 15, 2015.

"Although there are still difficulties and differences, we are determined to show the necessary will and courage to overcome the remaining outstanding issues," Anastasiades and Akinci added.

Those thorny issues included the previous stumbling blocks of territorial adjustments, power sharing and property rights. Top diplomats from the US, UK and Russia have made visits to Cyprus, an EU member state, over the past year to encourage progress in the negotiations. The lack of resolution on Cyprus is one of the factors holding back Ankara's bid to join the European Union.

Map of Cyprus showing the division of the island
Cyprus has been divided since 1974

The two Cypriot leaders said Sunday that a "just and lasting settlement" would set a good example and contribute to stability and cooperation in the region.

The island of Cyprus has been split since 1974, when Turkish troops occupied the northern third in response to a coup seeking unity with Greece, inspired by Athens. Only Turkey recognizes the statehood of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. A United Nations buffer zone runs through the island.

Cyprus: An island hoping for unity

se/sms (AP, AFP)