Rival leaders fail to revive Cyprus reunification talks

Nicosia (AFP) –


Rival Cypriot leaders failed to revive their divided island's stalled peace process as they met under UN auspices for the first time in nine months on Monday.

Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades told reporters the "two sides remain in their positions" after he met with his Turkish Cypriot counterpart Mustafa Akinci.

The two leaders ?had a frank and open exchange of views" in the one-on-one meeting in the UN-controlled buffer zone in Nicosia, the UN said in a statement.

Anastasiades said the leaders ?did not exclude the possibility? of the UN sending an envoy to Cyprus to examine a possible resumption of talks.

A group of Greek and Turkish Cypriots who had gathered outside the venue voiced hope that Anastasiades and Akinci would make headway.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third in response to a coup sponsored by the military junta then ruling Greece.

The last talks aimed at reunifying the island as a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation collapsed in Switzerland last July.

Tensions in the region heightened after Nicosia stepped up its search for natural gas reserves, a move opposed by Turkey.

Anastasiades has said reunification talks cannot resume while Turkey is trying to block foreign companies from drilling for oil and gas off of Cyprus, accusing Ankara of "gunboat diplomacy".

Last month the EU -- of which Cyprus is a member state while Turkey is not -- condemned Turkey?s actions in the eastern Mediterranean.