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Cypriot leaders, key powers vow to push ahead towards deal: UN

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (C) next to Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci (L) and Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades (R) listen to questions following the UN-sponsored Cyprus peace talks on January 12, 2017 in Geneva © POOL/AFP / LAURENT GILLIERON

GENEVA, Jan 13 – Rival Cypriot leaders, along with top diplomats from Turkey, Greece and Britain, agreed Thursday to push on with efforts to reunite the divided island and end one of the world’s longest-running political rows.

The conference in Geneva for the first time brought together Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci with top diplomats of the three guarantor countries to discuss security and other sticking points that have blocked progress for decades.

“The participants recognised that this is the time to bring the negotiations to a successful conclusion,” the United Nations said in a statement after the conference wrapped up late Thursday.

“This is a historic opportunity that should not be missed.”

“The participants agreed to establish a working group at the level of deputies who will commence its work on January 18,” the UN said.

“In parallel, the negotiations on outstanding issues in the other chapters will continue between the two sides in Cyprus.”

After that, the high-level political conference will continue to review the outcome of the technical talks.

Speaking to journalists in Geneva after the conference, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the Cyprus talks had entered a “critical period” but said gaps still remain on “sensitive issues”.

Cavusoglu also rebuffed his Greek counterpart, Nikos Kotzias, who earlier Thursday said the foreign ministers of Turkey, Greece and Britain would meet again on January 23 to discuss the security issue.

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“The announcement of a date (by the Greek foreign minister) before reaching an agreement is not the right method,” he said.

“There will not be any meeting on that date (January 23).”

Cavusoglu also insisted Turkish troops must remain on the island because “the reality is that Turkey’s guarantorship is vital to Turkish Cypriot people.”

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