The Turkish and Greek sides of Cyprus have relaunched peace talks with the aim to resolve over 40-year-old dispute.
Hopes for a breakthrough got a boost after Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, a left-wing moderate, soundly defeated hardline incumbent Dervis Eroglu in an election last month.
The aim of the initial session, being held at a UN compound at the now defunct Nicosia airport in the buffer zone that splits the island, is to agree on the structure and frequency of meetings.
“I have high hopes for our prospects and the future,” Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades told reporters as he left for the meeting.
Friday’s development followed a three-party meeting of the leaders of Turkish and Greek communities in Cyprus with the UN’s special envoy to the island earlier this the week.
Envoy Espen Barth Eide announced the date on Monday after hosting a dinner for Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders.
“I think this is a unique opportunity that will be grasped and it’s truly rewarding to work with two leaders with such a strong commitment to seeing a shared challenge that can only be solved through shared effort,” Eide said after the dinner.
On Friday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a statement released by his spokesman in New York, welcomed the resumption of full-fledged negotiations.
“With the momentum continuing to build for a solution to the long-standing division of the island, the secretary general salutes the commitment of the leaders to move forward without delay,” read the statement.
“The secretary-general calls on the leaders to seize this opportunity to achieve tangible progress towards a comprehensive settlement that would clearly benefit both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots,” it added.
Cyprus was split into Turkish Cypriot north and an internationally recognised Greek Cypriot south in 1974 when Turkey invaded a third of the island after a coup by supporters of union with Greece.
Anastasiades put talks on ice last October amid a clash with Turkey and Turkish Cypriots over rights to exploit the island’s potential offshore oil and gas reserves.