Europe

Cyprus talks to continue at expert level, Greece and Turkey say

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Media captionMany Cypriot families still have not found the bodies of their loved ones.

Cyprus peace talks will soon continue at the expert level, the Greek and Turkish foreign ministers say.

Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders have been making progress on key issues since talks in Geneva began on Monday.

Earlier, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said a deal on reunifying the island was "very close" but cautioned against hopes of a "quick" fix.

The island's communities have been split since 1974.

Key stumbling blocks to reaching a deal include the return of property to tens of thousands of Cypriots who fled their homes in 1974, and the question of whether any Turkish troops will remain in northern Cyprus after reunification.

Turkey still has 30,000 troops stationed in the island's north, whose presence Greece opposes.

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Image caption International diplomats joined the talks in Geneva on Thursday

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said discussions were "at a critical juncture" and that technical experts would now hold talks.

Reports say the plan is for their meetings to begin on 18 January, with a focus on thorny security issues.


What are the sticking points?

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Media captionCould there be an end to decades of division?

Property: What should happen to the properties that Greek Cypriots had to abandon in 1974? Should they get the right to take their old homes back, or be compensated - and if so by how much?

Security: How can the security of the Turkish Cypriots be guaranteed if Turkey's estimated 30,000 troops leave? Greek Cypriots see them as an occupying force, so should some stay or should Turkey retain the right to intervene? Who would act as a guarantor of the deal? The EU, of which Cyprus is already a member, or the UK, which has two military bases on the island?

Power and the role of the EU: There is talk of a rotating presidency, but how would that work? And could a Turkish Cypriot president really represent the country from time-to-time at EU summits?

Territory: How much more territory should Greek Cypriots gain to reflect the fact that they make up the majority of the island's population? UN peacekeeping forces estimate that 165,000 Greek Cypriots fled or were expelled from the north, and 45,000 Turkish Cypriots from the south, although the parties to the conflict say the figures are higher.


Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias said himself, Mr Cavusoglu and UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson - who represent Cyprus's security guarantors - could meet again on 23 January.

The end goal is for the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities to share power in a two-state federation. Any deal would have to win the support of both Cypriot communities in separate referendums.

The talks look set to continue for some weeks, says the BBC's diplomatic correspondent James Landale, who is in Geneva.

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Media captionFor more than 40 years Cyprus has been a divided island.

Conflict timeline

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Image caption Cyprus 1974: Greek Cypriot soldiers surrender to invading Turkish forces
  • 1955 - Greek Cypriots seeking unification with Greece begin guerrilla war against British rule
  • 1960 - Independence from British rule leads to power-sharing between Greek Cypriot majority and Turkish Cypriot minority
  • 1963 and 1964 - inter-communal violence
  • 1974 - Cypriot President, Archbishop Makarios, deposed in a coup backed by Greece's military junta - Turkey sends troops to the island, who then occupy a third of it in the north
  • 1983 - Rauf Denktash declares breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, recognised only by Turkey
  • 2004 - Cyprus, still divided, joins the EU, after a UN peace plan was backed by Turkish Cypriots but rejected by Greek Cypriots

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