EU ‘very confident’ of a Cyprus settlement this year

EU ‘very confident’ of a Cyprus settlement this year

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said Friday he is "very confident" that negotiators will reach a final agreement to reunite Cyprus within the next six months.

Long-stalled UN-brokered peace talks, which many observers see as the best chance to reunify EU member state Cyprus after four decades of division between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, were launched last May.

"I am very confident that in the first six months of this year we will come to a final agreement on the reunification of that island," Juncker, the head of the executive branch of the 28-nation EU, told a press conference in Brussels.

"I certainly hope that will be the case because I very much like the Cypriots," Juncker said.

"I think they are very, very efficient, intelligent and hard working and very educated people on both sides of the island," the former Luxembourg premier said.

"I hope 2016 will be the year that we can finally resolve the Cyprus issue," he added.

Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades and his Turkish Cypriot counterpart Mustafa Akinci said Thursday that they will meet UN chief Ban Ki-moon on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos next week to push forward the peace process.

No indication was given on the proposed meeting date but the forum takes place on January 20-23.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops occupied its northern third in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece.

Ban said earlier this month that he believes a Cyprus settlement "is within reach".

Several thorny disputes, including territorial adjustments, power sharing and property rights will need to be resolved if a unified, federal Cyprus is to occur.

Both leaders know that without tough compromises on property and territory a solution will be hard to sell to their respective communities.

And any accord must be ratified by Cypriots at the ballot box, with some reports suggesting that the UN is aiming for a referendum as soon as March.

A UN-controlled buffer zone – the "Green Line" – runs across the island and through Nicosia, Europes last divided capital, separating the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) from the Republic of Cyprus, which is recognized internationally. [AFP]

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