Cyprus leaders to meet, seek last-ditch talks

Rival leaders of war-divided Cyprus meet on Friday to break a reunification deadlock that threatens to derail Turkey's bid to join the European Union.

Cyprus leaders to meet, seek last-ditch talks
In their first meeting since Greek Cypriot leader Demetris Christofias assumed Cyprus's presidency last month, Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat will explore the possibility of new talks, stalled since 2004.

Diplomats fear a continuing stalemate will entrench partition in a conflict harming Turkey's EU entry hopes and relations with NATO partner Greece.

"The gap is not so big, and it will not be difficult for them to build bridges for an agreement for the new process," said Peter Millet, Britain's High Commissioner (ambassador) in Cyprus. "This is the message the international community is waiting for."

Friday's meeting in neutral United Nations territory splitting the island is rare and the first since communist leader Christofias trounced hardliner Tassos Papadopoulos in a presidential election last month.

No-nonsense Papadopoulos made little progress with Talat. Christofias has maintained closer ties with Turkish Cypriots and, like Talat, has a background in leftist political activism.

Peace efforts collapsed just before Greek Cyprus joined the EU when Greek Cypriots rejected a U.N. reunification blueprint accepted by Turkish Cypriots. An agreement brokered by the United Nations in 2006 calling for an incremental approach to peace-building stalled over the agenda.

"As the Turkish Cypriot side we seek a start as soon as possible to fully-fledged negotiations," said Asim Akansoy, an under-secretary to Talat.

But Christofias and his aides said "It's very clear that if there is no outcome (from Friday's meeting) we will try again, and again. We don't want to talk about failure," said Stefanos Stefanou, spokesman in Christofias's government.

Last Mod: 21 Mart 2008, 08:12
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