Cypriot leaders aim for peace deal in 2016

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades (C-R) and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci (C-L) on December 20, 2015 in Nicosia on the last day of their UN-brokered peace negotiations for the year (AFP Photo/Iakovos Hatzistavrou)
Cypriot leaders on Sunday wrapped up their UN-brokered peace negotiations for 2015 with the hope that next year will bring an elusive reunification deal for the divided island.
"Keeping in mind that a just and lasting settlement in Cyprus will be an example for the broader region, the leaders express their sincere hope that 2016 will bring peace, security and prosperity in Cyprus and beyond," they said in a joint statement.
Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci and his Greek Cypriot counterpart Nicos Anastasiades issued the statement after holding their last meeting of 2015.
They evaluated the status of negotiations since they began on 15 May and "expressed their satisfaction with the progress that has been achieved to date".
But "while acknowledging that the tasks ahead remain difficult, the leaders are determined to maintain the positive momentum of the talks", the statement said.
Their next meetings are planned for the 7, 14 and 29 of January with the aim "of reaching a comprehensive settlement as soon as possible".
On Sunday, the two leaders also met with members of a UN-sponsored committee on missing persons from the island\’s conflicts.
To end the island\’s four-decade-old division, Anastasiades and Akinci face thorny issues such as territorial adjustments, power sharing, security arrangements and property rights that have stymied countless previous initiatives.
The leaders are working on a formula to resolve the issues of property and territorial adjustment that would create a united, federal Cyprus.
Without a solid compromise on property and territory, a solution would be hard to sell to their respective communities.
And any peace accord must be ratified by Cypriots at the ballot box.
Tens of thousands of Cypriots were displaced after the 1974 Turkish invasion, when a population exchange effectively split the island between a Turkish Cypriot north and a Greek Cypriot south.
Many believe the good chemistry between Anastasiades and Akinci could create the climate of trust needed for a breakthrough.
Lack of a Cyprus settlement is hurting Ankara\’s own bid to join the European Union, with Nicosia blocking a number of chapters in the negotiation process.
Cyprus has been divided since Turkish troops occupied its northern third in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece.
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