April 28, 2015 / 10:10 AM / in 3 years

Greek, Turkish Cypriot leaders to kick start peace talks

NICOSIA (Reuters) - Greek Cypriots unveiled measures on Tuesday to boost trust across the ethnically divided island, and announced that rival leaders would hold their first meeting in months on May 2.

Peace talks between Cyprus’s estranged Greek and Turkish communities stalled last October, and Saturday’s meeting will be the first since moderate Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci swept to power in elections on April 26.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, who attends peace talks in his capacity as leader of Greek Cypriots, said on Tuesday he would offer ‘unilateral confidence building measures’ to Turkish Cypriots to boost negotiations.

“It is my strong conviction that a climate of trust should be created which will assist (peace) negotiations,” he said in a statement.

Confidence building measures included the handover of maps detailing the location of 28 mine fields the Greek Cypriot military laid before a 1974 war which now fall in Turkish Cypriot-controlled territory.

It would also cede the administration of Turkish Cypriot places of worship now in the Greek Cypriot south to Efkaf, a Turkish Cypriot religious foundation and trust, Anastasiades said.

Akinci, a moderate, swept to victory in Turkish Cypriot leadership elections on April 26, pledging fresh impetus in solving a conflict which has split the island for decades. He will be sworn in as president of the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus on April 30.

Heralded as a force for change, he has already irked Ankara for appearing to distance Turkish Cypriots from Turkish influence.

The breakaway state is recognized only by Ankara, and the government that Anastasiades leads is recognised internationally as the only legal authority on the island.

Cyprus was split in a 1974 Turkish invasion triggered by a brief Greek inspired coup.

The United Nations, which has overseen past rounds of peace negotiations on reuniting the island as a federation, say they are hopeful talks can resume next month.

Reporting by Michele Kambas; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt

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