U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday he expects Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders to reach agreement by October over the future of the divided island of Cyprus.
Ban emerged from a half-day of talks with Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu to say they had agreed to intensify their slow-moving talks.
"I have every expectation that by October the leaders will be able to report that they have reached convergence on all core issues, and we will meet that month in New York," Ban said.
He said that would pave the way for an international conference to hammer out a final agreement. The conference would mainly deal with the international dimensions of an accord, such as what to do about the military intervention rights granted to the island's three guarantors _ Britain, Greece and Turkey _ when it broke free of British colonial rule in 1960.
It was Ban's third meeting with Christofias and Eroglu; they also met in New York last November and in Geneva in January.
The focus of Thursday's talks, Ban said, was on "the need to significantly intensify the negotiations." At a news conference Christofias and Eroglu stood beside Ban without speaking, and both abruptly canceled plans to hold separate news conferences afterward.
Ban said progress "has been far too slow" until now and "some important areas have remained untouched." He said both sides have accepted his offer for "enhanced United Nations involvement," without specifying.
Any final settlement would first need approval from both sides in separate referendums. Ban advised the leaders not to wait to seek that support, since the public "has become weary" of the drawn-out talks.
"Both leaders must renew hope and enthusiasm for a solution," said Ban, adding that the leaders themselves acknowledged they will have to prepare their communities "for the compromises required for a settlement."
The U.N. Security Council expressed concern last month at the slow pace of negotiations on reunifying Cyprus and strongly urged leaders on the Mediterranean island to intensify their efforts.
The council also extended the mandate of the U.N. peacekeeping force in Cyprus, which has about 850 troops and 65 international police, for six months until Dec. 15.
Cyprus was split into a Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish Cypriot north in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters with Greece. The island joined the European Union in 2004, but only the internationally recognized south enjoys membership benefits.
Numerous U.N.-mediated attempts at reunification have failed. The dispute has also clouded Turkey's bid to join the European Union.
Menelaos Hadjicostis in Cyprus contributed to this report.