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Turkey says new Cyprus talks 'imminent'

A resumption of stalled Cyprus peace talks appears "imminent" after the divided island's leaders made progress in resolving a standoff, a Turkish official said on Thursday.

Hopes were high that the negotiations would resume last month but they have stuttered over the wording of a joint statement due to be made by the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities outlining basic principles for the new talks.

"Both sides are continuing talks. The joint statement is almost ready, waiting for the Greek Cypriots to okay it," the Turkish official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.

UN-brokered negotiations were suspended in mid-2012 when Turkish Cypriots walked out in protest at the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus taking the European Union's rotating presidency.

Last month, Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot leaders met in the buffer zone dividing the eastern Mediterranean island but no breakthrough was reported.

Ankara says the disagreement stems from the Greek Cypriot insistence on including in the joint statement key parameters of a settlement including a single sovereignty for a reunified Cyprus.

The Turkish Cypriots, who have been seeking a deal by next March, are also keen to include a timetable to ensure that the talks are not open-ended.

But Turkey is pushing for the resumption of talks without preconditions.

"Turkey is in favor of a negotiated settlement," another Turkish official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"We do not have any prejudice, or preconditions. We are ready to negotiate a two-state or a one-state solution but the lack of a solution will not last forever," the official added.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who said in October there was a "window of opportunity" to break the deadlock, is due to visit Greece on Friday and the breakaway state, which is recognized only by Turkey, the next day.

The fate of the island remains one of the major stumbling blocks to Turkey's negotiations with the European Union.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third after an Athens-engineered coup in Nicosia seeking to unite Cyprus with Greece. [AFP] , Thursday December 12, 2013 (16:53)  
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