Cypriot president unveils steps to boost peace talks trust

AP News
Posted: Apr 28, 2015 10:21 AM
Cypriot president unveils steps to boost peace talks trust

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Cyprus' president said Tuesday he would this week give the new Turkish Cypriot leader details about minefields in the ethnically split island's breakaway north, one of a series of moves he hopes will foster trust for the resumption of reunification talks.

President Nicos Anastasiades said he would provide Mustafa Akinci, who was overwhelmingly elected over the weekend, details and maps on 28 anti-personnel minefields along the Pentadaktylos mountain range.

The minefields were planted before the island was split in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of union with Greece. The information would assist in the minefields' removal.

The two men are due to meet Saturday, in what will be the first meeting between Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders since September, a month before Anastasiades put talks on hold in protest against Turkey's gas search in waters where the Cypriot government has licensed companies to drill.

Anastasiades also said administrative control of Muslim places of worship in the internationally recognized south would be given to the Turkish Cypriot religious authority. Moreover, Turkish-speakers will be hired to assist Turkish Cypriots at government-run administrative service centers.

Anastasiades also praised a bid by soccer officials from both sides of the divide to unify the sport under a single administrative roof.

He said the measures stem from his "strong conviction for the need to create a climate of trust that would bolster the negotiating process."

Anastasiades also said he's pleased with Akinci's willingness to discuss his proposal for opening up Varosha, a suburb of the coastal town of Famagusta in the north that has morphed into a virtual ghost town after being fenced off and kept under Turkish army control since 1974.

Government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said earlier Tuesday that Anastasiades and Akinci agreed in a lengthy telephone conversation to meet noontime Saturday, less than a week after the Turkish Cypriot leader's election win.

Christodoulides said the venue has yet to be determined.

The spokesman said the two men could touch on core issues and delve into ways of nudging forward peace talks. United Nations envoy Espen Barth Eide said talks are expected to resume next month after a clash over rights to the island's potential offshore mineral wealth subsided.

Turkey doesn't recognize Cyprus as a state and objects to a unilateral Greek Cypriot gas search, arguing that it infringes on the rights of Turkish Cypriots. Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence and maintains more than 30,000 troops in the north.

Anastasiades hailed Akinci's resounding victory over hard-line incumbent Dervis Eroglu as a development raising hopes of a peace accord.

Akinci, a moderate with left-wing roots and a strong track record of reaching out to Greek Cypriots, pledged to vigorously pursue peace deal that could unlock new energy-based partnerships in a conflict-plagued and unstable region.