Cyprus president ready for peace talks after UN spat over

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Talks to reunify the ethnically divided island of Cyprus appeared to be back on track Friday when its president said he’s ready to pick up where things left off following a halt after a perceived attempt to diplomatically upgrade the island’s breakaway Turkish Cypriot north.

A statement said President Nicos Anastasiades is pleased that the United Nations has clarified there’s no change to its policy of recognizing only the government of the Cyprus Republic, which is a U.N. member. The clarification came in a telephone call from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Anastasiades called off Friday’s meeting with Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci following his appearance at a heads of state dinner during a U.N.-sponsored summit Monday in Istanbul. The Cypriot government saw a meeting between Ban and Akinci in the Turkish city as adding insult to injury.

A Turkish invasion in the wake of a 1974 coup aiming at union with Greece split Cyprus into an internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south and a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north. Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence and maintains more than 35,000 troops in the north.

The statement said the U.N. rebuffed “those who strived in Istanbul to portray and promote the erroneous picture of the upgrading of the illegal regime in the occupied areas.”

Akinci attended the Istanbul dinner at the invitation of Turkey’s president. But the Cypriot government insisted the U.N.’s “bad handling” of the matter was mainly to blame for the fallout because the world body have given assurances the Turkish Cypriot leader wouldn’t show up.

The Cypriot government strongly opposes any attempt to put the breakaway north on an equal diplomatic footing because it considers the Turkish Cypriot government the product of an act of war which violated international law.

Neither Turkey nor the Turkish Cypriots recognize the Cypriot government.

Anastasiades said negotiations could be stepped up as long as there are no more “similar phenomena by whomever is involved in the process which would only serve to undermine” peace efforts.

Cyprus government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said no date has been set for the next Anastasides-Akinci meeting.

Much progress has been achieved in a year of talks and both leaders say they aim to reach a deal reunifying the island as a federation by the end of 2016.

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