British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond said on Thursday he was optimistic Cyprus was close to a "breakthrough" in resolving its four-decade-old partition, as momentum builds for a possible progress in talks to agree on a reunification plan this year.
The Mediterranean island has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops secured the northern part of the island as a safe haven for Turkish Cypriots in the scope of a military intervention. This was in response to a coup by the Greek junta, which sought to unite Cyprus with Greece.
Turkey’s intervention was done in accordance with the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee granting Turkey, Greece and Britain guarantor status, allowing them to intervene under such circumstances.
"I've made several visits to Cyprus over the last few months, meeting members of both communities, and I am optimistic that we may be on the brink of a breakthrough in resolving this dispute," Hammond told reporters in Athens.
Hopes have grown for a peace deal since leftist moderate leader Mustafa Akinci and his Greek counterpart Nicos Anastasiades resumed UN-brokered negotiations last May, with the meetings “happening with increasing frequency" in recent months.
Hammond said Britain, Cyprus's former colonial master, would be “happy” either way, in or out of the new model the two communities may agree on.
"If the two communities in Cyprus agree a model that ... requires Britain to play no role, we will be quite happy to play no role. If the model they develop requires Britain to play a role, then we are happy to consider playing any role the two communities ask us," he said.
"What we want is to see a sustainable solution in Cyprus and we will everything in our power to bring that about."
The Greek Cypriot south is recognised internationally and has been an EU member since 2004, while the Turkish Cypriot north is only recognised by Turkey.
On Monday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ankara was ready to perform its duties to ensure the resolution of the dispute over Cyprus this year.