"Shared commitment" for Cyprus peace, says UN's Ban

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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (centre) meets with Mustafa Akinci, Leader of the Turkish Cypriot Community (left), and Nicos Anastasiades, President of the Republic of Cyprus (right). UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

The leaders of Cyprus have begun a week of talks in Switzerland to resolve the future of the divided island, and they have a "shared commitment" to do so by the end of the year, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said Monday.

Opening the negotiations, Mr Ban highlighted how Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader, Mustafa Akıncı had said they would "do their utmost… to reach a settlement within 2016".

But the UN Secretary-General also sounded a note of caution when he said that "sensitive and difficult issues" must still be resolved.

The Mediterranean island has been split since 1974 when a Turkish army invasion followed an attempted military coup supported by Greece.

Daniel Johnson has more.

Speaking from the Swiss resort of Mont Pélerin overlooking Lake Geneva to open the talks, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commended Nicos Anastasiades and Mustafa Akıncı – leaders of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities.

Mr Ban told them that they had each made significant progress towards an agreement on the future of the divided island in recent months.

"The prospect of a solution in Cyprus is within their reach. Expectations in both communities are high. Cyprus offers tremendous hope to people around the world that long-standing conflicts can be resolved peacefully through negotiations."

The talks in Switzerland are expected to concentrate on the issue of territorial concessions, according the UN chief, in a reference to the Turkish-Cypriot held north of the island, and the Greek-Cypriot south.

"All other outstanding issues" would also be addressed, Mr Ban said, before highlighting how "sensitive and difficult" some of them were.

The UN has played a peacekeeping role in Cyprus for more than 50 years.

The organization first got involved because of inter-communal strife there in the early days of independence from the United Kingdom.

As the talks got under way in Switzerland, UN chief Ban reiterated the UN's support for diplomatic efforts end to the long-standing conflict, which are being led by UN Special Adviser on Cyprus, Norway's Espen Barth Eide.

And he made a special appeal to Greece, Turkey and the UK to support the leaders in their efforts to finally overcome the division of their island.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva.

Duration: 1'33" 

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