Britain eyes results in key Cyprus talks

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Britain said Tuesday it hopes a showdown between UN chief Ban Ki-moon and rival Cypriot leaders in Geneva next month will reinvigorate a flagging peace push for the divided island.

A trilateral meeting convened by the UN secretary general for July 7 is expected to produce a roadmap toward reunification as almost three years of UN-backed negotiations have produced little success.

"We hope the meeting in Geneva will galvanise the leaderships of the communities here in Cyprus to look anew on how to find a way forward to tackle the outstanding difficulties that stand in the way of a settlement," Britain's minister for Europe David Lidington said during a visit to the island.

Face-to-face talks between Demetris Christofias, the Greek Cypriot president, and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu have been bogged down over differences on territorial adjustment, security arrangements and property rights in a post solution federal Cyprus.

The Geneva gathering is viewed as critical to removing some those stumbling blocks.

And Lidington pointed out that the UN's hard-pressed resources maybe deployed elsewhere if the talks end in another deadlock.

"We cannot take it for granted that their priority will continue to be with Cyprus if there is little sign of progress being made," he told reporters.

The meeting in Geneva will be the third of its kind to inject momentum with a similar gathering in the Swiss city in January and another prior to that in New York.

"I hope that both leaders will come to the secretary general not just to take stock of what has happened up to now but with ideas about how to develop the search for a settlement."

Christofias has said the ideal aim for a solution would be before Cyprus takes on the EU presidency in mid-2012, and the British minister agreed.

"It would be wrong for me to sit here and try to set some arbitrary timescale but if Cypriot leaders set themselves that ambition, I think that would be a good thing," said the British minister.

The UN Security Council this month warned the leaders of the rival communities over the snail's pace of reunification talks.

A Council resolution which extended the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force in Cyrus until the end of the year expressed concern at the "slow pace of progress" in the talks.

The peacekeeping mission was first set up after communal disturbances broke out in 1963 and is one of the longest-serving in the world.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops seized and occupied its northern third in response to a Greek inspired coup in Nicosia to join the island with Greece.

© 2011 AFP

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