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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

UN chief says 'clear understanding' reached as Cyprus talks continue

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he held a positive meeting with Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı.

Greek Cypriot leader, Nicos Anastasiades, left, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, centre, and Turkish Cypriot leader, Mustafa Akinci, right, pose for a group picture during a new round of the talks on Cyprus under the auspices of the United Nations, in Crans-Montana, Switzerland on June 30, 2017. Jean-Christophe Bott/Keystone via AP
Greek Cypriot leader, Nicos Anastasiades, left, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, centre, and Turkish Cypriot leader, Mustafa Akinci, right, pose for a group picture during a new round of the talks on Cyprus under the auspices of the United Nations, in Crans-Montana, Switzerland on June 30, 2017. Jean-Christophe Bott/Keystone via AP

NICOSIA, CYPRUS // A "clear understanding" about what is needed to reach an agreement reunifying ethnically divided Cyprus has been reached between Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders and their backers, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Saturday.

Mr Guterres, who arrived on Friday on the third day of negotiations in the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana, supports the government's effort to unite Cyprus under a federal umbrella.

He met with president Nicos Anastasiades, the Greek-Cypriot leader who heads Cyprus's internationally-recognised government, and his Turkish-Cypriot counterpart Mustafa Akinci. He also met with the so-called guarantor powers Greece, Turkey and Britain.

His spokesman said the series of talks, held in the Swiss alpine resort of Crans-Montana, was "highly constructive... a positive, results-oriented meeting".

"A clear understanding emerged of the essential elements of a package that might lead to a comprehensive settlement in Cyprus," Mr Guterres' spokesman said in a statement issued on Saturday as political-level talks continued after the UN chief left.

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

Turkey maintains more than 35,000 troops there. Hopes of reunification depend greatly on a drastic reduction of Ankara's military presence.

Several previous peace drives have stumbled over the issue, with Greek-Cypriots demanding a total withdrawal of what they say is an occupying force and minority Turkish-speakers fearful of ethnic violence in the event of a pullout.

A diplomatic source said Ankara was prepared to slash its troop numbers by as much as 80 per cent, but foreign ninister Mevlut Cavusoglu went on national television on Thursday to deny a withdrawal was planned.

While the talks began in an upbeat mood on Wednesday, a source close to the discussions said the atmosphere hardened on a number of issues — particularly the Turkish-Cypriot demand for an alternating presidency in any future united state.

* From wire services