Cyprus talks kick off in Nicosia

Cyprus talks kick off in Nicosia

Cyprus talks kick off in Nicosia

Eroğlu and Anastasiades will meet at the buffer zone in Nicosia. AFP Photo

The leaders of the divided island of Cyprus will resume peace talks today as part of a new initiative to resolve the long-standing political dispute, breaking an 18-month stalemate.

Turkish Cypriot President Derviş Eroğlu and his Greek Cypriot counterpart, Nicos Anastasiades, will meet at a U.N. compound straddling the island’s divided capital city, Nicosia.

Earlier, both sides said they had accepted a new roadmap for the negotiations, outlined in a joint statement that would be read at the resumption of talks. Turkish Cypriot Foreign Minister Özdil Nami stressed yesterday the importance of approaching the talks “in good faith.”

“If we can draw lessons from the past and show a commitment to reach a federal solution, referendums on both sides for a comprehensive plan could become a reality as a result of the negotiation process. This would take months, not years,” Özdil said.

Greek Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides implied that Washington’s push was critical in overcoming the deadlock on the joint statement issue.

The meeting is their first formal meeting since negotiations stalled in mid-2012. The last round of talks was suspended when Greek Cyprus assumed the rotating presidency of the European Union. A resumption was further delayed by the eurozone debt crisis, which forced the Greek Cypriot government to secure a bailout from international creditors last March, plunging the island into deep recession.

The text recommends recognizing the equal status of the two states, while aiming to bring the divided communities closer under a federated government. The two sides hope to reach a comprehensive plan by the end of the negotiations. The plan would then be discussed within the communities and put to separate referendums.

A 2004 deal put forward by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to reunify the communities was defeated by a “no” vote in a Cyprus-wide referendum. Intermittent talks have since been inconclusive for political and economic reasons.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, meanwhile, met with EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Füle over a number of issues, including Cyprus. “We also agreed how important a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus issue is for all our interests. I expressed how much we appreciate Turkey’s support in the recent weeks to help relaunch talks between the two sides, which we hope will begin again very soon now,” Füle said in a statement after talks in Brussels.

Davutoğlu said Feb. 9 that the problem could not last for decades. “This time there has to be a lasting resolution for Cyprus.”