UN envoy hosts Cyprus leaders in bid to restart peace talks


NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — A U.N. envoy will host a dinner Thursday for ethnically divided Cyprus’ rival leaders in a bid to restart reunification talks that stalled amid finger-pointing over who’s to blame.

The dinner will be the first time that Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci and Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades will meet face-to-face since talks deadlocked last month.

U.N. envoy Espen Barth Eide will host the meal inside the U.N.-controlled buffer zone that separates the island’s breakaway, Turkish Cypriot north and the internationally recognized, Greek Cypriot south. The island was split in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence.

U.N. backed negotiations hit an impasse amid disagreements over how many people would be eligible to reclaim homes in zones that each side will control in an envisioned federation. Anastasiades sought as many as 90,000 Greek Cypriots getting back property abandoned during the invasion in an augmented Greek Cypriot zone. Akinci offered a maximum of 65,000.

“I have detected a strong desire from both sides to return to the table and to move forward and building on all the progress that has been made in the past 19 months,” Eide said after separate meetings with both leaders Thursday.

But the U.N. envoy also expressed concern about a “deterioration of trust” and a “hardening of positions” among ordinary Greek and Turkish Cypriots.

“I would urge people not to jump to conclusions, because these issues are difficult and small setbacks happen,” said Eide.

Meanwhile, U.S. Vice President-elect Mike Pence conveyed President-elect Donald Trump’s greetings to Anastasiades in a telephone call Thursday. A statement said Pence told the Cypriot president that the U.S. wishes to further bolster bilateral ties and to “constructively support” peace talks.

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A previous version of this story corrected the day of the dinner to Thursday, not Wednesday.

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