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Cyprus moves to direct peace talks

Latest update : 2008-07-25

Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat will conduct direct negotiations to find a mutually acceptable solution for the divided island, a UN spokesman said.

The leaders of divided Cyprus are to enter direct peace negotiations on September 3 aimed at ending the 34-year-old division of the island, with a solution to be put to simultaneous referendums, the United Nations said on Friday.
The UN Chief of Mission in Cyprus, Taye-Brook Zerihoun, made the announcement after hosting more than two hours of talks between President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat.
Speaking to reporters in the old Nicosia airport in the UN buffer zone, Zerihoun said Christofias and Talat had reviewed progress made by the working groups and technical committees set up at their talks in March.
"Having made their final review, the leaders decided to start their fully fledged negotiations on September 3, 2008 under the good offices mission of the UN secretary general.
"The aim of fully fledged negotiations is to find a mutually acceptable solution to the Cyprus problem, which will safeguard the fundamental and legitimate rights and interests of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots," he said.
"The agreed solution will be put to separate and simultaneous referenda," Zerihoun added, reading a joint statement on behalf of the two leaders.
The referendums will be held in the Turkish Cypriot northern sector and the Greek Cypriot south. A similar vote, on a peace plan drawn up by the United Nations former secretary general Kofi Annan in 2004, drew a resounding 'yes' from the north but was strongly rejected by the south.
Friday's talks followed intensive diplomatic moves to end the crisis caused when Turkish troops, in July 1974, invaded the northern part of the eastern Mediterranean island in response to an Athen-engineered coup aimed at uniting the island with Greece.
The lack of a Cyprus settlement is viewed as a major stumbling block to Turkey's European Union ambitions.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon wants to see direct negotiations start soon, and he has named Australia's former foreign minister Alexander Downer as his special envoy for Cyprus.
The leaders' statement said: "As a reflection of the heightened engagement, the leaders have agreed to establish a secure hotline to facilitate direct contact between them."

Date created : 2008-07-25