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Standoff Between Greece And Turkey Over Cyprus Remains In Place

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

There had been a glimmer of hope for progress on a dispute in the Mediterranean - the standoff over Cyprus. This week, the U.N. tried to restart talks aimed at forging an agreement between the Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. NPR's Peter Kenyon reports that, for now, those prospects remain dim.

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when a Greek-inspired coup toppled the sitting Cypriot president and Turkey quickly invaded, with the military winding up in control of about a third of the island. But Northern Cyprus has never been recognized as an independent state by anyone other than Turkey, while the Greek Cypriot republic has been welcomed into the European Union. For decades, the United Nations has been looking for a way to resolve the conflict, and this latest effort was led by Secretary General Antonio Guterres. His spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, however, was careful not to sound too optimistic before the talks began.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

STEPHANE DUJARRIC: Again, it's important to stress that these are informal talks. Secretary General is realistic. This is an issue that he knows well, so he is realistic.

KENYON: That realism turned out to be amply justified. As the talks in Geneva ended today, Guterres, in comments carried by Turkey's state-run news agency, said it was not an easy meeting.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ANTONIO GUTERRES: The truth is that, in the end, we have not yet found enough common ground to allow for the resumption of formal negotiations.

KENYON: The Turkish Cypriot delegation brought a six-point plan for demanding equal sovereignty for both sides of Cyprus - essentially, a two-state solution that Greek Cypriots remain adamantly opposed to. The Turkish Cypriot president, Ersin Tatar, confirmed that such recognition was a firm condition for his participation in any formal talks.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT ERSIN TATAR: (Non-English language spoken).

KENYON: "What I said regarding sovereign equality and status in the international arena," Tatar said, "that was to start the negotiations. As the Turkish side, that was the condition we made." Guterres says he's not giving up and will have a proposal for another meeting in a matter of months. Whether the sides will be any closer to a resolution by then remains unclear.

Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Istanbul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Peter Kenyon is NPR's international correspondent based in Istanbul, Turkey.

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