Turkish, Greek Cypriot leaders agree to resume reunification talks on May 15

A United Nations envoy has said Cyprus’ rival Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders will relaunch stalled talks aimed at reunifying the ethnically divided island on May 15.

Espen Barthe Eide announced the date after hosting a dinner for Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akinci and his Greek counterpart, Nicos Anastasiades, who met for the first time.

The leaders on Monday met at a hotel located in the buffer zone in Lefkoia on Monday evening.

Akinci and Anastasiades were expected to discuss a framework for a resumption of peace talks designed to reunify the ethnically divided island. Negotiations for the reunification of Cyprus were suspended in October last year following a unilateral decision by the Greek side, after Turkey sent a vessel to search for natural gas inside what Greek Cyprus considers to be its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

The hopes for a resumption of negotiations gained new momentum after moderate and left-wing Akinci swept to a landslide victory last month with a promise to give a new push and urgency to peace talks. The Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders will decide a date for an official start to a new round of UN-mediated peace talks during the meeting.

Anastasiades, who attended the May 9 VE Day victory parade in Moscow at the weekend, met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon while in Russia, a Greek Cypriot newspaper reported on Sunday. The Phileleftheros daily did not provide further details of the content of the meeting.

The same newspaper also claimed in another report that the US ambassador in Nicosia, John Koenig, proposed that Washington invite Turkish Cypriot President Akinci to the US capital as an official guest. No US administration has invited a Turkish Cypriot leader so far, given that Washington has no diplomatic relations with the government in the north of the island. The US recognizes Greek Cyprus as the sole representative of the island in the international arena, although it expends considerable efforts attempting to nudge both sides to reunify the island.

Cyprus was split in 1974 after Turkey intervened when a Greek Cypriot military junta removed a civilian government with the aim of uniting the island with Greece. Greek Cyprus enjoys international recognition, while Turkish Cyprus is recognized only by Ankara.