Rival Cypriot leaders will meet for dinner next month in an effort by the United Nations to reignite a stalled peace process to reunify the divided island.
A statement issued by the UN on Friday confirmed the leaders will meet on April 16 inside the UN-controlled buffer zone at the old Nicosia airport. The informal meeting will take place at 7pm.
"The Deputy Special Advisor of the Secretary-General on Cyprus, Elizabeth Spehar has been in contact with the Greek Cypriot leader Mr Nicos Anastasiades and the Turkish Cypriot leader Mr Mustafa Akıncı," said the UN statement.
Both leaders have agreed to an informal meeting in the buffer zone on 16 April at 7pm
It will be the first time Anastasiades and Akinci have met since UN-backed peace talks collapsed in acrimony at a Swiss summit last July.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded in response to a short-lived military coup on the island engineered by Athens.
Breaking the ice
The UN is hoping dinner diplomacy can push-start stalled Cyprus reunification talks after Cypriot leaders agreed to meet for the first time in nine months to iron-out differences. But the social gathering is not expected to lead to a resumption of talks but it may shine a path towards that end by breaking the ice.
Since peace talks came to a gridlock, tensions in the region have heightened following Nicosia’s pushing forward with the search for natural gas reserves. Turkey has been opposed to such a move, saying it is not being conducted on the basis of equality between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.
The dispute over resources in the Mediterranean is another complicating factor in efforts to reunify the island after negotiations on the half-century conflict collapsed in acrimony last year.
Energy and talks intertwine
Anastasiades has said reunification talks cannot resume while Turley is trying to block the island’s energy development strategy.
Earlier this week he accused Turkey of "gun-boat diplomacy" in February for "physically obstructing Italian energy firm ENI from reaching its planned drilling area in exploration Block 3 of our Exclusive Economic Zone”.
Last week the EU condemned Turkey’s actions in the Eastern Mediterranean and told it to cease such actions against Member State Cyprus. Turkey insists that the Republic of Cyprus halt exploration activities until a final settlement can be reached.
Repeated rounds of talks on reunifying the island as a bizonal, bicommunal federation have all failed.