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

Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on Cyprus, Espen Barth Eide, right, shakes hands with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias during their meeting in Athens, Monday May 29, 2017.

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) - A United Nations envoy called off talks with the rival leaders of ethnically divided Cyprus on Friday after failing to find "common ground" on convening a final summit to aim for an overall reunification deal.

He said: "Unfortunately, despite serious efforts to overcome their differences regarding the modalities for meeting in Geneva, the leaders were unable to find common ground".

"Without a prospect for common ground, there is no basis for continuing this shuttle diplomacy", he added. "I will now inform the secretary general (Antonio Guterres) and seek his advice on the way forward", Eide said.

The peace process has not fallen apart, according to Aleem Siddique, a spokesman for the United Nations in Cyprus.

The deadlock means that two years of negotiations which have produced progress achieved never before in more than 40 years have been put in limbo for an unspecified period.

Greek and Turkish Cypriots hold olive leaves and a banner with a.

He says Anastasiades and Akinci have agreed on most issues required for a deal.

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

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

The minority Turkish Cypriots said the troops are their only security guarantee.

In the last UN-backed referendum held in 2004, the reunification was backed by 65 percent of the Turkish Cypriots and rejected by 76 percent of the Greek Cypriots.

The eastern Mediterranean island was divided into a Turkish Cypriot state in the north and a Greek Cypriot administration in the south after an Enosis (Union)-inspired 1974 military coup was followed by violence against the island's Turks, and Turkey's intervention as a guarantor power.

Mr Akinci insists on negotiating all outstanding issues together as part of a give-and-take process.

Akinci hit back on Friday saying he could not accept his interlocutor's "preconditions".

But presidential elections in early 2018 in the south and the government's bid to explore for offshore oil and gas - a drive that is due to be launched on 13 July and which has been quick to draw the ire of Turkey - have both complicated the talks process.

  • Leroy Wright