NICOSIA (Reuter)–Leaders of the Greek and Turkish communities in Cyprus met on Friday to discuss problems arising from the military division of the island.
The meeting between President Glafcos Clerides–the Greek Cypriot leader–and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash–was the first since UN-sponsored talks aimed at starting stalled negotiations on reuniting the eastern Mediterranean island ended inconclusively in Switzerland last month.
The meeting started in the afternoon at the buffer-zone residence of Gustave Feissel–the UN envoy to Cyprus.
Denktash arrived at Feissel’s rambling stone residence in the capital Nicosia three minutes before Clerides and after brief consultations inside emerged for the customary handshake.
Both leaders appeared to be in a jovial mood as they beamed at the clicking cameras.
"All right? Are you satisfied?," Denktash said.
As he and Clerides turned to go back into Feissel’s residence they clapped one another on the back.
But diplomats and analysts were equally downbeat that the new round of talks–brokered by the United States–could reap any immediate results.
The agenda is open–officials said.
"This may provide the political impetus to an agreement on the military dialogue which has been rumbling on for nearly a year. An agreement on the non-use of force and non-aggression will be important towards improving the atmosphere. Beyond that there is little scope," one diplomat told Reuters.
Greek and Turkish Cypriots have been separated since 1974 when Turkey invaded the northern third of the island.
Ankara has some 30,000 troops deployed in northern Cyprus–a breakaway state declared in 1983 and recognized only by Turkey.
The two communities have been estranged since 1963–three years after independence from Britain–following the outbreak of inter-communal violence.
The United Nations has tried but failed to bring the military forces on the two sides to agree on a series of tension-reducing measures along the cease-fire line.
Five people were killed in violent incidents on the cease-fire "green line" last year. More recently controversy surrounding the deployment of an anti-aircraft missile system by the Greek Cypriots has also increased tension between the rival sides and their backers.
The Greek Cypriots say the system is defensive.
But Ankara–which says the missiles are a direct threat to the security of Turkish Cypriots and Turkey itself–has said it will take "corresponding measures."