Cyprus leaders meet as peace talks remain deadlocked

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NICOSIA, Feb 23 (Reuters) – Leaders of Cyprus’s estranged Greek and Turkish communities met on Thursday as a deadlock persisted in peace talks on the ethnically divided island.

Thursday’s meeting was the first for newly elected Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides, the new Greek Cypriot leader, and Ersin Tatar, the Turkish Cypriot leader.

They met on neutral ground in a United Nations-controlled buffer zone splitting the two sides in the divided capital, Nicosia, at the home of Canadian diplomat Colin Stewart who heads the peacekeeping mission on the east Mediterranean island.

Christodoulides said the meeting with Tatar was informal. “I’m interested in results, interested in reaching our goal which is to break the deadlock in talks,” he told reporters earlier.

(L-R) President-elect of the Republic of Cyprus Nikos Christodoulides, Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Cyprus Colin Stewart, and leader of the Turkish Cypriot community Ersin Tatar pose for a photo during a meeting at the residence of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Cyprus, in Nicosia, Cyprus, 23 February 2023. It is the first meeting of the two leaders since the election of Christodoulides. EPA-EFE/IAKOVOS HATZISTAVROU / POOL

Cyprus was split in a Turkish invasion in 1974 after a brief Greek-inspired coup. The last round of peace talks collapsed in 2017.

Christodoulides, a former foreign minister in the outgoing centre-right administration, won a closely fought election on Feb. 12 and assumes duties on Feb. 28.

Centrist and right-wing parties supporting him have typically followed a hard line in reunification talks, and two of his backers reject the United Nations basis for the talks, which is uniting Cyprus under a loose federal umbrella. Tatar, who is also a hardliner, says the only solution for Cyprus is a two-state one, with each side holding equal sovereign rights.

The United Nations is mediating talks between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities.

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