NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — The rival leaders of ethnically split Cyprus have asked the United Nations to prepare for a follow-up summit in early March that will aim to clinch a breakthrough on the difficult issue of how security will be handled after the island is reunified, a U.N. envoy said Wednesday.
Espen Barth Eide said that Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and the leader of the breakaway Turkish Cypriots, Mustafa Akinci, will in the meantime meet weekly to narrow differences on other outstanding issues.
Eide said the March summit will be planned in consultation with Cyprus' "guarantors" — Britain, Greece and Turkey.
Anastasiades and Akinci along with the British, Greek and Turkish foreign ministers met in Geneva last month to resolve the complicated issue. That meeting was suspended after differences proved too wide to bridge.
More than 20 months of talks between the two leaders have produced significant progress toward reunifying the tiny east Mediterranean island of around 1.1 million people as a federation.
The leaders are keen not to allow the stumble over security to sap momentum from the talks, Eide said.
Security has long stood as a major stumbling block to peace in Cyprus.
Turkey has kept more than 35,000 troops in the northern, Turkish Cypriot third of the island since 1974 when it invaded in the wake of a coup aimed at union with Greece.
Cyprus' 1960 constitution assigned to Greece, Turkey and former colonial ruler Britain the role of protecting the nascent republic. Turkey invoked what it said was its constitutionally sanctioned right to take military action to justify its invasion.
Fearing Turkey's might, Greek Cypriots reject a demand by the minority Turkish Cypriots to keep Turkish military intervention rights and troops in place after reunification, saying the European Union — of which Cyprus is a member — needs no third country security guarantees. Turkish Cypriots insist Turkey is the only power they can trust to protect them from any troubles if a peace deal goes awry.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that Turkey would never give up its right to guarantee Cyprus' security even after reunification.