Cyprus not ready for another peace conference

Nicosia (AFP) - Ground still needs to be covered until the Cyprus peace process can be put back on the international stage as it was in Geneva this month, a UN envoy said Tuesday.

UN envoy Espen Barth Eide criss-crossed the island's UN-patrolled ceasefire line on the eve of face-to-face talks with the Cypriot leaders on the next steps in the peace process.

It will be the second time Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades and his Turkish Cypriot counterpart Mustafa Akinci have met since the January 12 Geneva conference involving guarantor powers Greece, Turkey and Britain.

This was followed by a meeting of technocrats from the parties involved in Mont Pelerin, Switzerland.

It is now up to the Cypriot leaders how to push the process forward, said Eide.

"I think there is agreement we will convene when the time is ripe and when that is, has to be agreed by the leaders with other participants of the conference," Eide told reporters.

He said the Geneva conference was an open-ended process and was not going to be over in two days as some people thought.

"The purpose of the next meeting (conference on Cyprus) is that we conclude something," said Eide.

"My sense though... is that while the guarantor powers see a bigger game, they also see a settlement of the Cyprus problem as positive for their bigger question."

The Norwegian diplomat added: "So there is a convergence that solving the Cyprus problem is a good thing but exactly how it's solved we are trying to find out."

Eide said a recent unanimous UN Security Council statement in support of the process should be "cherished" by Cypriots.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece.

The island's leaders have been holding direct talks at various locations for 20 months on how to forge a unified, two-zone federation.

Turkey, Greece and Britain attended talks in Geneva and Mont Pelerin to focus on reforming the "guarantor power" agreement, a 1960 deal giving them the right to intervene to defend Cyprus' sovereign integrity.

There is general consensus the guarantor system needs to change, although the fate of some 40,000 Turkish troops deployed on the Turkish Cypriot side remains an obstacle, with Ankara insisting they will stay.

Meetings in Geneva and Mont Pelerin were inconclusive and now talks in Cyprus must point the way ahead.

Greece, like Britain, has said it was happy to do away with the guarantor power arrangement but has insisted the Turkish military's "occupation" of Cyprus end.

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