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Cypriots ready to resume peace talks, no date set: UN

AFP , Tuesday 7 Apr 2015
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Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders are ready to resume peace talks after a seven-month hiatus, UN envoy Espen Barth Eide said Tuesday, but no date has been agreed.

The two sides have agreed to start UN-brokered talks "within weeks not months," the Norwegian diplomat said.

While no date was agreed, Eide said talks would not start until after presidential elections in the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), which begin on April 19 and could go to a second round the following Sunday.

Cyprus has been divided since Turkey invaded in 1974 in response to an Athens-engineered coup seeking to unite the eastern Mediterranean island with Greece.

Its northern third, still occupied by Turkish troops declared itself independent.

The TRNC is recognised only by Ankara, while the Greek-Cypriot controlled Republic of Cyprus is recognised by the international community and is now a member of the European Union.

"My primary focus is a strategic settlement, that is a strategic compromise to be reached," said Eide of a peace process that has repeatedly failed to make headway over the terms of any possible reunification.

"I strongly believe that 2015 will be a decisive year, a decisive year in the right direction."

Eide was optimistic that he would triumph where many others have failed to achieve progress on Cyprus, believing he would be the "last UN envoy" for the country.

 

 

Asked why the talks have been shelved for so long he replied "a number of people have been comfortable with no solution," but did not elaborate.

Tensions over offshore exploration for oil and gas had threatened to derail the peace process altogether despite calls from the international community for the two sides to return to the negotiating table.

In October, the Greek Cypriots suspended participation in the latest round of UN-led peace talks, launched in February 2014, to protest what they said were moves by Turkey to undermine their right to exploit gas and oil reserves.

A Turkish ship encroached on Cyprus's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) off the south coast, after Ankara had given notice that a seismic vessel would carry out a survey in the same area where Italian-Korean energy consortium ENI-Kogas is operating.

Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades and his Turkish Cypriot counterpart, Dervis Eroglu, are now seemingly ready to re-engage in efforts to end the island's 40-year division.

The seismic ship has been withdrawn and a renewed notice for the survey vessel expired on April 6.

But the Greek Cypriots have warned that if talks resume and Turkey again violates the Cypriot EEZ, it will have no other option than to suspend its participation again.

Turkey's withdrawal from the EEZ coincided with ENI-Kogas and France's Total announcing that they had not found exploitable gas reserves during recent test drills.

ENI-Kogas has asked for a two-year grace period to re-assess its search, while Total will conduct geological surveys instead of drilling.

Ankara opposes Nicosia's exploitation of offshore hydrocarbon reserves before any peace deal, but is itself determined to search for oil and gas in an area where the Cypriot government has licensed exploratory drills.

The Greek Cypriots argue that the failure to reach a settlement should not mean such projects are put on hold.

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