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Greece, Turkey keen on Cyprus talks: foreign ministers

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Greece and Turkey's foreign ministers called for progress in peace talks between the leaders of divided Cyprus, following talks on Friday.

Hopes were high that the negotiations would resume last month but they stuttered over the wording of a joint statement due to be made by the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities outlining basic principles for the new talks.

"Greece supports the initiatives of Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades to outline new confidence-building measures between the two communities," Greek Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos said after meeting visiting counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu of Turkey.

UN-brokered negotiations were suspended in mid-2012 when Turkish Cypriots walked out in protest at the internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus taking the European Union's rotating presidency.

Last month, Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot leaders met in the buffer zone dividing the eastern Mediterranean island but no breakthrough was reported.

Ankara says the disagreement stems from the Greek Cypriot insistence on including in the joint statement key parameters of a settlement including a single sovereignty for a reunified Cyprus.

"Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots are trying to secure progress on a joint statement," Davutoglu said, adding that the Greek Cypriot side also had to show "willingness".

"Cyprus must remain a single state, this is very important," the Turkish foreign minister said.

Venizelos insisted that any final deal must be put to a referendum on Cyprus.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third after an Athens-engineered coup in Nicosia seeking to unite Cyprus with Greece.

The self-declared Turkish Republic Of Northern Cyprus is recognised only by Ankara.

Greece and Turkey, neighbours and NATO allies, have been regional rivals for centuries and nearly went to war in 1996 over a string of uninhabited Aegean Sea islets.

Though relations have markedly improved in recent years, and Athens supports Turkey's efforts to join the EU, tension remains over territorial and airspace disputes.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131213/greece-turkey-keen-cyprus-talks-foreign-ministers