The leaders of ethnically-split Cyprus have asked the United Nations to prepare for a new peace conference in early March with guarantor powers Britain, Turkey and Greece, a UN envoy said on Wednesday.
Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders Nicos Anastasiades and Mustafa Akinci also agreed at a meeting to reconvene weekly through the month of February to try to resolve outstanding issues, envoy Espen Barth Eide said.
"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," Eide said in a statement.
"They underscored their strong resolve and determination to maintain the current momentum," said Eide, a former Norwegian foreign minister who has been one of a long line of envoys trying to broker peace on the eastern Mediterranean island.
Cyprus was a British colony until 1960 and its Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities have lived estranged on either side of a UN-monitored ceasefire line since 1974, when Turkish forces invaded the island in response to a brief coup by Greek Cypriot militants seeking union with Greece.
The seeds of partition were planted years earlier when Turkish Cypriots withdrew from a power-sharing system after the outbreak of communal violence, which spurred the dispatch of what is now one of the oldest UN peacekeeping contingents.
One of the 1960 treaties under which Cyprus was granted independence allows Greece, Turkey and Britain intervention rights in the event of a breakdown of constitutional order.
The foreign ministers of guarantor powers Britain, Greece and Turkey met Cypriot leaders in Geneva in mid-January to weigh security guarantees, seen as crucial to a reunification deal.
That meeting was inconclusive. Turkey and Turkish Cypriots insisted on continued guarantor status while Greece and the Greek Cypriots insisted the current system be dismantled, saying Turkey had abused it with its 1970s invasion and continued stationing of 30,000 troops in northern Cyprus. [Reuters]