Talks to agree on a reunification plan for the divided island of Cyprus have made "significant progress," however some important issues remain unresolved, the UN's mediator to the island said Tuesday.
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 in response to a coup by the Greek junta, which sought to unite Cyprus with Greece.
Although 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, the intervention was condemned by the international community.
"We've made significant progress on some of the most difficult issues of the last weeks and months," said UN peace envoy Espen Barth Eide.
But, he added that "there are still significant outstanding issues that have to be tackled," including "security and guarantees and what will be done in the future, how Cypriots can live in security."
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.
Eide noted that we are "living in a time now of severe geopolitical turbulence," citing confrontations involving Syria, Russia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
However, he stated "this is the real moment to find the final solution to the problem that is many decades old."
The envoy pointed to the symbolic progress in negotiations seen in a joint televised message by Akinci and Anastasiades on the occasion of New Year, in which they wish for reunification in 2016, each in the other's language.
"The ambition is that Cyprus will be a unified European country and that's why we have involved much more than previously the EU," said Eide.
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.
A referendum based on a reunification plan was held in 2004 on both sides of the island, but was rejected by the Greek Cypriot population of the island.