UN: Cyprus still 'very close' to deal despite halt in talks

Greek and Turkish Cypriots hold olive leaves and a banner with a peace massage with a Turkish flag in the background, during a protest to call to the rival leaders of the two communities to "Unite Cyprus Now" across the Ledras main crossing point inside the U.N buffer zone, that divided the Greek and Turkish Cypriots controlled areas, in divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Saturday, May 27, 2017. United Nations envoy Espen Barth Eide has called off talks with the rival leaders of ethnically divided Cyprus after failing to find "common ground" on convening a final summit that would aim for an overall reunification deal. Cyprus was split in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of union with Greece. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

ATHENS, Greece — Cyprus remains "very, very close" to an agreement to reunite the ethnically-divided island despite a breakdown in talks last week, a U.N. official said Monday.

Espen Barth Eide, the U.N.'s special adviser on Cyprus, called off mediation efforts Friday following a disagreement between Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci on how the talks should proceed.

The two leaders also differ on the future of around 35,000 Turkish troops on the island.

But Eide said in Athens on Monday that the talks until now had brought the prospect of federal reunification closer than ever since the island's division in 1974.

"We are indeed very, very close — actually more close than most people seem to understand," Eide told reporters after a 90-minute meeting with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias.

"On at least five of the six issues, the leaders see eye to eye. We still have this issue of security and guarantees," he said, explaining that Anastasiades and Akinci have agreed on most issues required for a deal.

Cyprus was split in 1974 when Turkey invaded following a coup by supporters of union with Greece.

The most recent negotiations began two years ago and made significant progress on how to share power in an envisioned federation. But they stumbled on key issues of post-reunification security arrangements and how much territory each side would administer.

Over the weekend, dozens of Greek and Turkish Cypriot protesters — beating drums, blowing whistles and singing folk songs — linked arms across a U.N.-controlled buffer zone dividing the capital Nicosia to voice support for reunification.

Eide was due in Ankara, Turkey, later Monday, and he argued that his goal was to gain support needed to restart the talks.

"I'm not asking them (leaders in Greece and Turkey) to put pressure on anyone," he said.

"But I want to share with them that I am worried. I am more worried than I have been at any time during these last three years that the process is in serious trouble."

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