Leaders of ethnically split Cyprus agreed to work towards a new system of power sharing on Tuesday, in a bid to end a bitter and long-running conflict frustrating Turkey’s hopes of joining the EU and complicating its relations with Greece.
Representatives of the island’s two largest ethnic groups, Greeks and Turks, said they would seek to forge a two-zone federation reuniting the island, which has been split for decades.
“The leaders expressed their determination to resume structured negotiations in a results-oriented manner,” said Lisa Buttenheim, the resident United Nations envoy on the island, reading from a joint statement.
Flanked by the two leaders, the joint statement Buttenheim read out did not differ significantly from previous proclamations of an aspired peace deal on the Mediterranean island, but served more to reassure the sides of the boundaries in talks. Peace talks stalled in mid-2012.
Nicos Anastasiades, president of the internationally recognised Cypriot government, and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu will now leave key negotiators to thrash out the minutae of any deal, the detail where talks typically flounder.
Cyprus’s Greek and Turkish Cypriots have been estranged since 1974, when Turkey invaded the island’s north after a brief Greek-inspired coup, though the seeds of partition were sown years earlier soon after independence from Britain in 1960. Power sharing, redrawing property boundaries and the claims of thousands of displaced persons are key issues in the conflict. Any agreement must be put to separate referendums to the two communities.
Talks take place in a United Nations compound which once served as the island’s main international airport, settled on a plateau overlooking Nicosia, Cyprus’s divided capital.
The crubmling facade of the airport’s terminal, now locked up, was visible from the talks complex with the bullet riddled shell of a Cyprus Airways aircraft abandoned in fighting.
Cyprus’s partition is a headache for the European Union. The island is represented in the EU by its Greek Cypriots, with veto-wielding rights over Turkey’s wish to join the bloc.