UN chief: Cyprus peace talks impasse ‘temporary setback’

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appealed to Cyprus’ rival Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders not to let a ‘historic opportunity’ to reunify the ethnically divided island slip away, Ban’s spokesman said Wednesday, after pivotal talks at a Swiss resort hit an impasse.

Spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Ban shares the leaders’ disappointment over the deadlocked talks, and “urges the leaders to continue their efforts in line with their shared commitment to do their utmost in order to reach a settlement in 2016.”

“Especially in a region and in a world marked by increasing tension, they must not let this historic opportunity slip,” Dujarric added.

He said Ban has reiterated his full support to the peace talks and the U.N. commitment to assist Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci in reaching their shared goal. He said the U.N. chief will soon be in touch with both leaders to discuss the next steps.

Two days of intensive talks between Anastasiades and Akinci at Mont Pelerin, Switzerland, this week failed to reach agreement on how much territory will fall under the administrative control of either side in an aimed-for federation.

A 1974 Turkish invasion triggered by a coup aiming at union with Greece split the tiny island nation into an internationally recognized, Greek speaking south and a breakaway, Turkish Cypriot north. A Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence is recognized only by Turkey, which keeps more than 35,000 troops in the north.

Cyprus’ government spokesman, Nicos Christodoulides, told Cypriot state-run radio Wednesday that Turkish Cypriot negotiators avoided coming to an agreement on how much territory either side will control, breaching an earlier understanding on how talks would proceed.

He said Turkish Cypriot negotiators instead aimed to get the issue bundled into a final summit bringing together Greece, Turkey and Cyprus’ former colonial ruler Britain that is intended to sort out security arrangements after reunification.

Akinci on Tuesday accused Greek Cypriot negotiators of making unfair demands for territory from the Turkish Cypriots.

Dujarric said Ban urged everyone involved to avoid statements and actions “that would make the resumption of talks more difficult.”

“He reminds them that temporary setbacks are not uncommon in peace processes as talks approach the final stage,” Dujarric said.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement Tuesday that a “precious opportunity” was lost, but reaffirmed Turkey’s commitment to a deal.

It also urged that a date be fixed for a final summit to sort out security arrangements.

Ban also called upon Greece, Turkey and Britain to throw their full support behind the leaders in the coming period “which will be crucial for the negotiations and the future of Cyprus.”