Cyprus leaders' meeting aims to restart peace talks

The chief negotiator for Greek Cypriots in ethnically-split Cyprus Andreas Mavroyiannis speaks during an interview with The Associated Press at his office in divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus, on Thursday, April 12, 2018. Mavroyiannis says next week's meeting between the rival Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders aims to pave the way for a full resumption of stalled reunification talks. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

The chief negotiator for ethnically split Cyprus' Greek Cypriots says next week's meeting between the rival Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders aims to pave the way for a full resumption of moribund reunification talks

NICOSIA, Cyprus — An informal meeting between the rival Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders of Cyprus aims to pave the way for a full resumption of stalled reunification talks, the chief negotiator for Greek Cypriots said Thursday.

Andreas Mavroyiannis said expectations aren't high about Monday's United Nations-hosted meeting which doesn't signal a formal resumption of peace talks.

But he said it's vital that the ethnically split island nation's Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and breakaway Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci find "common ground" on rekindling the process.

"What's important for us...is that it doesn't end in failure, and failure would be leaving the dinner with the leaders not deciding anything about what's next," Mavroyiannis told The Associated Press in an interview.

Mavroyiannis said long-term prospects for an overall peace accord appear bleak but it's hoped that renewed talks could reach a "strategic agreement" on some pivotal issues by autumn. Negotiations would continue on other matters — like unifying the economy — that need more time to resolve.

Negotiations at a Swiss resort that also involved the foreign ministers of Greece and Turkey collapsed last July over disagreements on the envisioned federation's security arrangements.

Cyprus was split in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes a 1983 Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence.

Difficulties to restarting talks remain.

Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots oppose what they call a one-sided Greek Cypriot search for offshore gas. In February, Turkey sent warships to prevent a rig from drilling at a target southeast of Cyprus where Italian company Eni is licensed to search for gas. ExxonMobil and partners Qatar Petroleum are scheduled to drill off Cyprus around October.

Mavroyiannis repeated that the hydrocarbons search is independent from peace talks, despite Akinci's demand to include it. Moreover, negotiations can't resume while the Cypriot government remains "under threat from Turkey."

He said Turkey could get a share of east Mediterranean gas if a Cyprus peace deal is reached. But Turkey's aim to get all the region's gas flowing through it in order to monopolize supply routes to Europe can't materialize because of the European Union's goal of diversifying its energy sources.

Mavroyiannis said that Greek Cypriots can't accept a demand for a permanent Turkish troop presence that would potentially act as means for Turkey to meddle in the inner workings of a reunified Cyprus.

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