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U.N. Cyprus talks set to resume

Annan: 'Real chance' of a reunited Cyprus by May

Papadopoulos (left) and Denktash
Papadopoulos (left) and Denktash

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UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- Greek and Turkish Cypriot delegations to the United Nations have agreed to resume full negotiations next week to reunite the divided island of Cyprus.

"There is now a real chance that before the third of May, Cyprus will be reunited," U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Friday. "We have not solved the problem but I really believe after 40 years, a political agreement has been reached."

Cyprus has been divided into a Greek south and a Turkish-held north since a 1974 Turkish invasion sparked by a short-lived coup by supporters of union with Greece.

Turkey maintains about 40,000 troops in a northern Turkish Cypriot breakaway state, which is recognized only by Ankara.

Both sides praised Friday's agreement to resume talks to end the dispute.

"After three days of intense negotiations ... we are very glad that we have achieved what we have been asking for the last nine months -- resumption of the talks under the auspices of the secretary-general," Greek Cypriot leader Tassos Papadopoulos said.

Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Ugur Ziyal said: "I believe that the work that we have started will end in a win-win situation, as my prime minister has stated.... This will be our objective -- to have a resolution of this issue and to have the two sides live in peace within a common state."

The two parties will meet in Nicosia on February 19 to resume negotiations on the U.N. plan, with a goal of reaching a final settlement by March 22, according to a statement released by the two. If the talks run into trouble, Annan will bring in the governments of Greece and Turkey to assist.

If the parties are still deadlocked, Annan has the authority to fill in any gaps.

"As a final resort, in the event of a continuing and persistent deadlock, the parties have invited me to use my discretion to finalize the text to be submitted to referenda on the basis of my plan," Annan said in a statement.

But Annan said he hopes that kind of intervention won't be necessary.

"I hope the people of Cyprus are happy and that they'll encourage their leaders," he said.

A key sticking point had been the role of the European Union in the settlement talks. Annan said Friday's agreement called for an EU role on "technical and economic" issues relating to the possibility of a reunited Cyprus joining the organization. But he provided few specific details on the EU's role.

"At this stage the European Union is not involved," Annan said.

A peace deal is vital for Turkey's ambitions to join the EU. The Greek Cypriot side of the island will join the 15-nation bloc with or without the a peace agreement in May.

Talks collapsed a year ago after the Turkish Cypriot side, led by Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, insisted that their state win full recognition, while Papadopoulos demanded refugees who left the north about 30 years ago should have the right to return home.

Papadopoulos and Denktash signaled they were unhappy with a power-sharing plan that would involve land exchanges and population movements.

Denktash believed the plan would throw many Turkish Cypriots out of their homes on an island where Greek Cypriots make up two-thirds of the population.

Greek Cypriots opposed the plan because it committed them to sharing power with a minority and restricted the number of Greek Cypriots who would be able to return to their former homes.


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