NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — The rival leaders of ethnically split Cyprus will meet no fewer than six times in November as they take a more hands-on role in reunification talks, a United Nations envoy said Friday, heralding a key stretch that could offer strong indications if negotiations will produce a deal.
Espen Barth Eide said that this intensified phase of U.N.-facilitated talks aims to "seek mutually beneficial solutions" where differences remain.
Greek Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades and breakaway Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci "have agreed to put their sights on a future where all citizens of a united Cyprus can co-exist and live together in peace," Eide said after the leaders wrapped up talks at a U.N. compound on the grounds of the capital's now disused airport.
Cyprus was divided into a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north and an internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup aiming at union with Greece.
Anastasiades and Akinci have met 10 times since talks resumed in May in what has been hailed as the best chance at a deal after numerous rounds of talks over more than four decades.
Jaded by years of dashed hopes, Cypriots on both sides remain cautious, looking instead for tangible proof that an agreement is truly in the offing.
Anastasiades also sounded a note of caution after Friday's meeting.
"It doesn't mean anyone can expect talks to progress in November in such a way that will lead us to a deal," Anastasiades said. "Let's hope the situation is like that, if there's good will from the other side as well."
The two leaders have moved forward on economic matters, governance and power-sharing under an envisioned federal state, and what will happen with property lost during the war. But difficult sticking points remain, even on the property issue which is seen as a key hurdle to concluding a deal.