Rival Cypriot leaders met for the first time in nine months for a dinner date on Monday in a UN-backed move to reignite a dormant peace process but there was no agreement to resume reunification talks.
After the sit-down, a UN statement said Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci “had a frank and open exchange of views during a two hour tête-à-tête discussion. They then proceeded to a dinner”.
The aim of the occasion was to pave the way for a resumption of peace talks that broke off last July at a Swiss summit.
But there was no breakthrough apart from the leaders not excluding any new moves from the UN.
Anastasiades told reporters afterwards that the leaders “did not exclude the possibility” of the UN sending an envoy to Cyprus to examine the possibility of a resumption of talks.
“We discussed the differences we have, the two sides remain in their positions,” said Anastasiades revealing the deadlock remains.
There was no fixed agenda for Monday’s dinner date which was the leaders’ first meeting of any kind since reunification talks collapsed last summer.
Expectations weren’t high about the social gathering reaping results, but diplomats had hoped the Cypriot leaders could find common ground on reviving the peace process.
Outside the venue in the UN-controlled buffer zone, a group of Greek and Turkish Cypriots urged the leaders to “find a solution”.
The island has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third in response to a coup sponsored by the military junta then ruling Greece.
Since Cyprus talks came to a gridlock, tensions in the region have heightened following Nicosia’s upgraded search for natural gas reserves which is opposed by Turkey.
The dispute over resources in the Mediterranean is another complicating factor in efforts to reunify the island after negotiations on the 44-year feud collapsed last year.
Anastasiades has said reunification talks cannot resume while Turkey is trying to block foreign companies from drilling for oil and gas offshore Cyprus.
Last month the EU condemned Turkey’s actions in the Eastern Mediterranean telling it to cease such actions against Member State Cyprus.
Repeated rounds of talks on reunifying the island as a bizonal, bicommunal federation have all failed.