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UN chief says prospects for Cyprus deal remain 'alive'

© AFP/File | Cyprus has been divided since 1974, with a buffer zone -- pictured here in June 2018 -- slicing between the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish-occupied north in Nicosia

UNITED NATIONS (UNITED STATES) (AFP) - 

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says prospects for a Cyprus settlement remain alive, a year after a failed peace effort, and has instructed an envoy to press on with efforts to kick-start talks.

Guterres gave that assessment in a report presented Monday to the Security Council that set the stage for a fresh bid to revive talks and end the decades-old division on the Mediterranean island.

The UN chief reported on consultations led by Jane Holl Lute, who since July has been seeking to determine whether there is a willingness by all sides in Cyprus to return to the negotiating table.

"I believe that prospects for a comprehensive settlement between the communities on the island remain alive, notwithstanding the well-known history of the UN's efforts to broker peace," said Guterres in the report, a copy of which was obtained by AFP.

The UN chief said "new ideas" may be needed to finally reach agreement on reuniting Cyprus and that the next steps must be "well prepared."

"In view of what I understand to be the sides' interest to engage in such an effort, and before formal negotiation should be launched, I will instruct Ms Lute to continue discussions," he added.

Lute will seek to gauge "the true extent of convergence on key issues and the willingness of the sides to incorporate novel proposals as part of an overall solution toward a common future."

Talks on reunifying Cyprus broke down in July last year when Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders failed to agree on compromises concerning power-sharing and security arrangements for the island.

The UN-brokered negotiations in Switzerland had been billed as the best hope in decades to resolve the Cyprus issue, one of the world's longest frozen conflicts.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied the northern third of the island in response to a Greek military junta-sponsored coup.

Thousands of Turkish troops remain stationed in the north and Nicosia remains the world's last divided capital.

One of the UN's longest-running peacekeeping missions is deployed in the buffer zone between Turkish and Greek Cypriot forces.

© 2018 AFP