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Cyprus rivals vow to press talks despite dim prospects

NICOSIA (AFP) – 

Five days of UN-sponsored talks on ending the decades-old division of Cyprus have adjourned without a breakthrough but negotiators vowed Saturday to press on even as prospects fade for a deal this year.

The much-heralded talks between Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot leaders in the Swiss resort of Mont Pelerin were supposed to produce a map of the internal boundaries of a future federation on the Mediterranean holiday island.

But they ended without any public comments by President Nicos Anastasiades or his Turkish Cypriot counterpart Mustafa Akinci.

A brief UN statement said “significant progress has been achieved”, without giving any specifics.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded the island in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece.

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.

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.

Just how much land they should give up has bedevilled four decades of peace talks.

With every passing year, the issue has become thornier as displaced Turkish Cypriots have consolidated their lives in towns and villages from which Greek Cypriots fled.

“The dialogue is still ongoing and it is for this reason that there was a decision to postpone talks for a week and resume next Sunday, November 20 in Geneva,” government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides told reporters.

“There was significant and noticeable progress which is why we decided to continue.”

He said the initial plan is for next week’s talks to last for three days.

“If there is the will, in a day or two days we would be able to close an agreement on this issue,” he said.

The setback is not a big surprise.

The Cyprus conflict is one of the world’s longest-running diplomatic disputes and a UN peacekeeping force has been deployed on the island since shortly after intercommunal unrest first broke out in December 1963.

But the United Nations and the main diplomatic power brokers on the island had expressed hope a deal could be sealed by the end of 2016.

– No date for multi-party talks –

The territorial negotiations in Switzerland were supposed to be followed by five-party talks between the leaders of the two communities and the three main outside powers — Greece, Turkey and former colonial ruler Britain.

But despite the insistent demands of the Turkish Cypriots, no date for those has yet been set.

The Turkish government said it remained committed to the success of the negotiations, although not at any price.

“We know what concessions we can make on specific points… I hope we get a result,” government spokesman Numan Kurtulmus told reporters.

“That doesn’t mean that Turkey will accept any concessions that are dictated to it to reach a solution.”

Anastasiades and Akinci have been among the most outspoken proponents of a deal within their own communities but they will have to sell any agreement they reach to their respective voters.

In 2004, Turkish Cypriot voters approved a UN-drafted peace blueprint but it was resoundingly rejected by Greek Cypriots in a simultaneous referendum.

© 2016 AFP

Article source: http://www.france24.com/en/20161112-cyprus-rivals-vow-press-talks-despite-dim-prospects