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UN chief praises progress in Cyprus talks

world Updated: Jul 30, 2009 07:40 IST

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Wednesday that Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders have made the most significant progress in three decades in talks to reunify war-divided Cyprus.

"I hope that they will be able to finish their consultations, negotiations, as soon as possible," he told a news conference. "We will continue to support their efforts."

Supporters of union with Greece divided Cyprus in 1974 when Turkey invaded in response to a coup. It is split into an internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south, which is part of the European Union, and a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north. After decades of failed peace initiatives, Greek Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat launched reunification talks last September. Negotiations have so far failed resolve key differences over power-sharing, property lost in the war and the future of 35,000 Turkish troops currently stationed in the breakaway north, but Ban was upbeat.

"During the last 30-year-long conflict period, I think we have seen in (the) last several months the most encouraging developments of the situation through very frequent bilateral talks between the two leaders," the secretary-general said. "And they have made significant progress, which we have not been able to see during the last three decades," he said. "That's quite commendable."

During about 30 meetings, Ban said, Christofias and Talat have completed a first round of discussions on many important subjects including security and property issues.

"They have taken many important, encouraging issues, which have been very much appreciated by the international community," Ban said.

Earlier this month, Christofias, a Greek Cypriot, said a reunification deal can be reached soon if Turkish Cypriots agree to a united Cyprus as a single sovereign federation instead of a partnership of separate states.

Talat, the Turkish Cypriot leader, and Turkish President Abdullah Gul have expressed hope that an agreement can be hammered out by December, which the United States says it would also like to see. But Christofias has said he and Talat had agreed to negotiations without outside mediation or deadlines.