NICOSIA – Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said Wednesday he was determined to continue peace talks aimed at uniting the island, after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned against missing a "historic opportunity" for peace.
The latest UN-brokered negotiations between Anastasiades and his Turkish Cypriot counterpart Mustafa Akinci held in Switzerland this month ended on Tuesday with no agreement, with the two sides still far apart on the key issue of land-for-peace.
"I want to assure that I am determined and ready to take the necessary steps to continue the dialogue," Anastasiades said in a televised address on Wednesday.
"I am ready to continue the dialogue where it broke off," adding that he was in touch with EU leaders to keep the "door open" for talks.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded the northern third of the island in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece.
The much-heralded talks were supposed to produce a map of the internal boundaries of a future federation on the island to pave the way for a deal by early next year.
But like the five days of discussions earlier this month, negotiations broke down, with each side blaming the other for the lack of progress.
Ban said he will be in contact soon with the leaders to discuss the next steps with just five weeks to go before the UN chief hands over to Antonio Guterres to lead the world body.
"The secretary-general urges the leaders to continue their efforts in line with their shared commitment to do their utmost in order to reach a settlement in 2016," said a statement from Ban’s spokesman.
"Especially in a region and in a world marked by increasing tension, they must not let this historic opportunity slip," he added.
Breakdown ’deeply regretted’
Cyprus is one of the world’s longest-running geopolitical disputes and has been a key stumbling block in Turkey’s EU accession bid.
Turkish Cypriots made up just 18 percent of the island’s population in 1974, but they currently control more than a third of its territory.
It has always been agreed that some of the territory currently controlled by the Turkish Cypriots will be ceded to Greek-Cypriot control in any peace deal.
Anastasiades said the talks broke down on the issue of territorial adjustments because the "Turkish Cypriot side didn’t show the required flexibility despite our efforts."
He said he "deeply regretted" the negative outcome in Switzerland but said he would not allow the opportunity to settle the four-decade-long crisis "to be lost".
Anastasiades revealed that the two leaders were close on the percentage of territory to remain under Turkish Cypriot administration in a future federation, with Akinci suggesting 29.2 percent and the Greek Cypriots proposing 28.2 percent.
But they remained far apart on how many Greek Cypriots should be able to return to homes they fled in 1974, with Akinci determined to minimise the number of Turkish Cypriots who would be displaced for a second time.
Anastasiades and Akinci have been among the most outspoken proponents of a deal within their own communities, but they would still have to sell any agreement they reach to their respective voters. – AFP