Rival Cypriot leaders agree to intensify talks: Ban

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Rival Cypriot leaders have agreed to enter into intensive talks aimed at reunifying the divided Mediterranean island, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said Thursday, adding that he hoped for an agreement by October.

"Today's meeting has been useful and productive," Ban told journalists accompanied by President Demetris Christofias, head of the internationally recognized Greek-Cypriot government, and Turkish-Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu.

"The leaders have agreed to enter into an intensive period of negotiations on the core issues when they return to their island," he added.

"I have every expectation that by October the leaders will be able to report that they have reached convergence on all core issues, and we will meet that month in New York," he said.

"This will take the Cyprus negotiations close to their conclusion and would allow me to give a positive report to the Security Council on that matter," added the UN Secretary-General.

Ban made the announcement after a four-hour meeting with the two leaders.

Thursday's UN-backed meeting is the third of its kind, following a similar session in the Swiss city in January and a previous one in New York last November.

But the talks have so far failed to live up to the international optimism that accompanied their launch in September 2008, and the UN has said it cannot see talks dragging on for much longer.

Key sticking points of disagreement include territorial adjustments, security arrangements and property rights in a post-solution federal Cyprus.

Christofias has said the ideal target date for a solution would be before Cyprus takes on the EU presidency in mid-2012.

The UN Security Council last month also warned the rival leaders to make progress through a resolution, which extended the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus until the end of the year.

The peacekeeping mission was set up shortly after communal disturbances broke out in 1963, just three years after the island's independence from Britain. That makes it one of the longest-serving in the world.

The island has been divided along ethnic lines since 1974 when Turkish troops occupied its northern third in response to an Athens-inspired coup in Nicosia aimed at union with Greece.

Turkey has no relations with the internationally recognised Greek Cypriot government. It is the only government in the world to recognise the breakway state which Turkish Cypriot leaders declared in 1983.

© 2011 AFP

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