New Cyprus leader says hopes to rekindle peace process

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The incoming Cyprus President Nikos Christodoulides on Thursday held his first meeting with Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar to try and break the ice on frozen reunification talks.

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The Mediterranean island is divided between the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus, an EU member, and a northern statelet established after Turkey launched a 1974 invasion in response to a Greek-sponsored coup.

The self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is only recognized by Ankara.

Christodoulides, the former foreign minister of Cyprus, told reporters the meeting was a courtesy call and that he would meet Tatar again soon, but that no date had been fixed.

“I didn’t hear anything I wasn’t expecting ... I said I remained open despite our different approaches,” said Christodoulides. “I’m not here to play any blame game.”

“I’m interested in the substance. I’m interested in results. I’m interested in achieving our goal, which is nothing more than breaking the deadlock.”

Christodoulides won a closely contested presidential election on February 12 and officially assumes the post on March 1.

He said he remained positive about resuming formal negotiations under the United Nations framework after nearly six years.

“This wasn’t a discussion on the core issues. This wasn’t a negotiation.”

Diplomats have struggled to move the dial on Cyprus talks as Tatar insists on the recognition of two separate sovereign states, rejecting the loose federal model promoted under the UN umbrella.

“I expressed our willingness to do everything possible to break the deadlock, always within the agreed framework of the UN, but also with the EU having a leading role,” said Christodoulides.

After the two-hour meeting in Nicosia’s UN-controlled buffer zone, a UN statement said the two leaders “had an informal discussion which was open and constructive.”

It said Christodoulides and Tatar addressed several issues, including the recent devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria.

Past UN peace talks have yet to yield results. The most recent talks collapsed at Crans-Montana, Switzerland, in July 2017.

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