Rival Cypriot leaders to meet on November 3

Nicosia (AFP) –


The leaders of divided Cyprus will hold a rare meeting next week in the wake of Ankara-backed hardliner Ersin Tatar becoming leader of the breakaway north, the UN said Tuesday.

It will be the first meeting between Republic of Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and Tatar, but no major decisions are expected to come out of their get-together.

The pair will meet on November 3 in the UN-controlled buffer zone at the residence of the UN's head of mission, Elizabeth Spehar, a statement read.

"Ms Spehar looks forward to hosting Mr Anastasiades and Mr Tatar for their first informal meeting together as the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot communities," the UN said.

Cyprus has been divided since Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third in 1974 in reaction to a Greek-engineered coup aiming to annex the island.

Voters in the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) on October 18 narrowly elected the right-wing nationalist Tatar as their president at a time of heightened tensions in the eastern Mediterranean.

Tatar, an advocate of a two-state solution with the Republic of Cyprus -- an EU member -- edged out previous Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, a supporter of reunification with the Greek Cypriot south.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said he wants to rekindle talks between the two sides.

There have been no official UN-sponsored Cyprus settlement negotiations since a conference in Switzerland collapsed in July 2017.

The TRNC is economically and politically dependent on Turkey, not least because some 30,000 Turkish troops are on Cypriot soil.

Tatar was also behind reopening of the resort of Varosha, a sealed-off ghost town since 1974.

Anastasiades has said the move goes against international law and is an obstacle to resuming stalled peace talks.