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Ban to open Cyprus land-for-peace summit in Switzerland

Nicos Anastasiades, President of the Republic of Cyprus (L) with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in September/AFP-File

NICOSIA, Cyprus, Oct 28 – UN chief Ban Ki-moon will launch crunch Cyprus talks in Switzerland next month that could determine whether a peace deal is achievable to end decades of division on the island.

United Nations envoy Espen Barth Eide said Friday that Ban will open the November 7-11 talks at which rival Cypriot leaders will discuss territorial adjustments for the first time.

Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades and his Turkish Cypriot counterpart Mustafa Akıncı decided this week to move their negotiations launched 17 months ago to Mont Pelerin, near Geneva.

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini, on a visit Friday to Nicosia, said a Cyprus settlement would amount to a “game changer” for the region at large.

“This would be a game changer not only for all Cypriots, not only the island also the European Union but also obviously for the entire southeast Mediterranean and for the Middle East,” she told reporters.

“It’s a regional but also global responsibility to try and do this last mile in the most positive way,” Mogherini after talks with Anastasiades and Cyprus Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides, whose country has been an EU member since 2004.

Eide said the UN-brokered peace summit will “concentrate on the chapter of territory, as well as all other outstanding issues interdependently”.

“The two leaders have jointly expressed their hope that the meeting in Switzerland will pave the way for the last phase of the talks, in line with their shared commitment to do their utmost in order to reach a settlement within 2016,” said Eide.

“It is the first time that the two leaders are negotiating the issue of territory directly, marking a critical juncture in the current process,” he added.

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Territory make-or-break

Due to the make-or-break nature of the territory issue, the leaders agreed to hold talks outside Cyprus. The talks in Switzerland will be the first time that maps are brought to the table since the negotiations began.

The two leaders will seek to agree on the internal boundary between two future constituent states allowing for the return of some areas in Turkish-held northern Cyprus to the Greek Cypriots.

Without an agreement on territory there can be no decision on how many refugees can return to their former homes or how the plans for restoration, exchange or compensation of property will work.

Territorial adjustments are essential for any peace deal for the EU member state.

The long-stalled peace talks in what is seen as the last best chance to reunify Cyprus after four decades of division were launched in May 2015.

Any agreement reached will need to go to a vote in simultaneous referenda on either side of the divide.

Talks have failed previously due to a lack of agreement on property compensation, territorial adjustments and the security set-up of a post-settlement Cyprus.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops occupied its northern third in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece.

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