Turkish Cypriot leader says referendum possible in 2017

Nicosia (AFP) - The president of the breakaway Turkish Cypriot region of northern Cyprus said Tuesday that a referendum on reunifying the island could be held in the summer if talks next month went to plan.

Mustafa Akinci and President Nicos Anastasiades of the internationally-recognised Greek Cypriot Republic of Cyprus are due to meet in Switzerland in January, in a bid to give new momentum to the process.

"If everything goes well and there is no accident on the way, then a referendum could be on the agenda in the summer months," Akinci told reporters in Nicosia.

He said there are some 100 issues to deal with in the Cyprus negotiations but the most sensitive amount to just 8-10 issues, including land, property and security.

Anastasiades and Akinci agreed to resume the talks for the reunification of the divided Mediterranean island after negotiations broke down in Switzerland last month.

Akinci confirmed he would hold one-on-one talks with Anastasiades before being joined on January 12 by the three guarantor powers of Cyprus -- Britain, Greece and Turkey.

"There will be no one else around the table," Akinci said.

Turkish Cypriot media earlier this month quoted President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman Ibrahim Kalin as saying the Turkish strongman would be joining the talks from January 12.

Meanwhile Anastasiades will travel to Athens Friday for talks with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tspiras ahead of the fresh negotiations, his government's spokesman said.

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

The breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) is only recognised by Turkey. The Republic of Cyprus is however an EU member.

Anastasiades and Akinci, who are among the most outspoken proponents of a deal, are under huge pressure to deliver progress in the talks. But any agreement they reach will have to be approved by their respective communities in referendums.

Akinci, born in Limassol which is now in the Greek Cypriot south, had himself repeatedly spoken of 2016 as a "window of opportunity" to solve the Cyprus problem.

Cypriots on both sides of the island in 2004 voted in referendums on a UN plan to reunite Cyprus. It was overwhelmingly approved by Turkish Cypriots but also overwhelmingly rejected by the Greek Cypriots.