Cyprus asks UN to prepare new guarantor powers conference

UN envoy Espen Barth Eide (L) with Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades

NICOSIA - Cypriot leaders asked the United Nations on Wednesday to make preparations for a new international conference on security arrangements for a reunified island to take place in March.
Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades and his Turkish Cypriot counterpart Mustafa Akinci made the request following talks in Nicosia presided over by UN envoy Espen Barth Eide.
"The leaders requested the United Nations to prepare, in consultation with the guarantor powers, for the continuation of the conference on Cyprus at political level in early March," a UN statement said.
The guarantor powers on the island are Greece, Turkey and former colonial ruler Britain. A 1960 deal gave them the right to intervene to defend the island's sovereign integrity.
The three governments held a first conference in Geneva on January 12, followed by technical talks in the nearby Swiss resort of Mont Pelerin on January 18-19.
Those talks as well as Anastasiades-Akinci meetings in Mont Pelerin ended inconclusively but left the door open for a continuation.
On Tuesday, Eide said more ground needs to be covered before the Cyprus peace process can be put back on the international stage as it was in Geneva.
It is now up to the Cypriot leaders how to push the process forward, he said.
"I think there is agreement we will convene when the time is ripe and when that is, has to be agreed by the leaders with other participants of the conference," Eide told reporters.
"The purpose of the next meeting (conference on Cyprus) is that we conclude something," he said.
At Wednesday's meeting, the rival Cypriot leaders took stock of developments since the first conference. "They underscored their strong resolve and determination to maintain the current momentum," the UN statement said.
It said the leaders "will meet weekly through the month of February to address outstanding issues". Their next meeting is scheduled for February 9.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops occupied its northern third in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece.
The Turkish Cypriots declared a breakaway state in 1983 but it is recognised only by Ankara.
The two leaders have been holding direct talks for 20 months on reunifying the island as a federation.
At stake are thorny issues like its future internal borders, as well as the property rights of the tens of thousands of Cypriots who have displaced.
Before the Geneva conference, the two leaders exchanged maps for the first time of their proposals for the land that will be ceded to the Greek Cypriots as part of a settlement.