Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci and Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades on Thursday agreed on a five-step plan to resolve the issue of division on the island, said a United Nations envoy.
The meeting, which was the most positive sign in more than a decade, lasted around for four hours and hosted by Espen Barth Eide, the UN special adviser for Cyprus.
The island of Cyprus has been ethnically divided since the military coup by the Greek junta in a bid to unite the island with Greece in July 1974. The coup had led Turkey to exercise its right under the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee to conduct a military intervention in the island.
After Turkey secured the northern part of the island and a population exchange between the Turkish Cypriots in the south and Greek Cypriots in the north, failure to reach an agreement with the Greek Cypriots to restore the constitutional government led to the Turkish Cypriots declaring the independence of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) - which is only recognised by Turkey.
The steps which were planned to be taken on Thursday’s meeting include opening more crossing points, interconnecting the power grids, allowing mobile phone interoperability on both sides of the divided island, resolving the issue of radio frequency conflict, and forming a joint committee on gender equality.
Akinci and Anastasiades decided to continue the talks and meet four more times between June 17 and July 17, pledging to take concrete steps to realize all five goals.
The previous attempts of peace talks were suspended when the Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades withdrew from the negotiations last October after Turkey sent its Barbaros Hayreddin Pasa seismic vessel to the island’s waters to search for hydrocarbon reserves, a move which came on the same day of joint Italian-South Korean energy consortium. Eni-Kogas began drilling for hydrocarbon reserves in the Greek Cypriots’ declared Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Turkey, which does not recognise the Greek Cypriot administration, had warned against drilling before a deal between the Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots is achieved.
However, the withdrawal of the Eni-Kogas consortium from island’s waters earlier in April allowed Turkey to also withdraw its ship, thus presenting a window of opportunity for the talks to restart.