‘Real progress’ made in talks to resolve Cyprus conflict: United Nations`

June 29, 2017 10:30 pm
Peace talks aimed at resolving the decades-old conflict have made “real progress”, the ’s political affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman said, as the island’s rival leaders resumed negotiations on Thursday.
In an interview with AFP, Feltman, who is attending the talks in the Swiss Alpine resort of Crans-Montana, said that Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot factions had made unprecedented progress on the crucial issue of security.
“We know that the issues that the leaders and the guarantor powers are discussing are quite difficult and security is a concern to both communities on Cyprus,” he said.
“There is a lot that was discussed at the political level that has not been discussed before at these talks.”
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, after Turkish troops invaded the Mediterranean island following an Athens-inspired coup attempt seeking union with Greece.
The northern third of the island later declared itself a separate territory in a move only ever recognized by Ankara.
Turkey maintains more than 35,000 troops on the island and any prospects of reunifying Cyprus rest largely on a drastic reduction of Turkey’s military presence.
A diplomatic source told AFP before the latest round of talks opened on Wednesday that Ankara was prepared to slash its troop numbers by as much as 80 percent.
As well as the leaders of Cyprus’ Greek and Turkish-speaking communities, the Crans-Montana conference is being attended by delegations from the island’s so-called guarantor powers Greece, Turkey and former colonial power Britain.
The guarantor states retain the right to intervene militarily and so their assent will be crucial to any security settlement.
The , which has 950 peacekeepers serving in Cyprus, could have some oversight role to implement the new security arrangements.
Other outstanding areas of dispute including the potential resettlement of and compensation for the thousands of families who fled their homes in 1974 are also intrinsically linked to security.
Turkish military bases take up a significant amount of the occupied northern territory, while Britain has indicated it may be willing to cede some of the land it holds as military base areas in order to expedite a deal.
Feltman said there was a “clear determination” following the first negotiation sessions on Wednesday to address “the concerns of both communities in terms of security”.
“I’m encouraged by the seriousness with which people are taking these talks and look forward to seeing how things develop,” he added.
“There’s clearly still a lot of work to do even though I consider this meeting to have registered real progress.”
UN chief Antonio Guterres is expected to attend the talks, which have been billed as the “best chance” for peace for Cyprus, on Friday.
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