30 March 2011 – Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders today discussed internal security aspects in continuing United Nations-sponsored talks that seek to reunify the Mediterranean island, which has been split for almost 50 years.
“They met in a friendly and constructive atmosphere,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative for Cyprus Lisa Buttenheim told reporters after the meeting between Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias and his Turkish Cypriot counterpart, Dervis Eroglu, noting that they would meet again on the subject next week.
The leaders have met more than 90 times since the UN-sponsored talks began in 2008 with the aim of setting up a federal government with a single international personality in a bi-zonal, bi-communal country, with Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot constituent states of equal status. The leaders’ representatives have also met scores of times.
In a report in December, Mr. Ban warned that that the talks could “founder fatally” if substantive agreement is not reached within the next few months. “A critical window of opportunity is rapidly closing,” he said, stressing that Greek Cypriot parliamentary elections scheduled for May and elections in Turkey in June militate against constructive talks in the second quarter of 2011.
The Secretary-General met with both leaders in Geneva at the end of January, and the two agreed to intensify the talks to reunify an island that has been split since inter-communal violence erupted in 1964.
One of the major issues that have to be resolved concerns property. The Greek Cypriots say those with property in the north should be able to seek reinstatement, while Turkish Cypriots say that if all property owners were allowed reinstatement, it would be impossible for Turkish Cypriots to secure bizonality. They want a ceiling on those who can have properties reinstated instead of compensation.
The UN has maintained a peacekeeping force on the island – known by its acronym UNFICYP – since 1964, with a current strength of nearly 1,000 uniformed personnel and 150 international and national civilian staff.
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