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Tuesday, 8 January, 2002, 15:43 GMT
Turkey foresees Cyprus settlement
Rauf Denktash (left) and Glafcos Clerides during the December talks
"Dinner" diplomacy helped to achieve the breakthrough
The Turkish Foreign Minister, Ismail Cem, has said that the long-running dispute over the divided island of Cyprus could be resolved by the end of 2002.

A mutually acceptable resolution should be achieved before the end of 2002

Ismail Cem

In a newspaper interview, he said the chances of solving the issue have improved markedly.

"A mutually acceptable resolution should be achieved before the end of 2002. We have a new platform which has created improved conditions for mutual understanding," Mr Cem told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

However, he added that further dialogue was necessary.

His comments followed a series of meetings between President Glafcos Clerides, and the Turkish Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktash, at which they agreed to resume the talks on the future of Cyprus on 16 January.

The two leaders are also meeting on Friday to discuss the fate of 2,000 missing people.

The talks

The breakthrough was achieved in December, when Mr Clerides and Mr Denktash held their first face-to-face meeting for four years and also visited each other's homes for talks over dinner.

A Greek Cypriot protester in Nicosia
The issue of the missing people still causes deep splits

Analysts say the talks themselves are likely to be difficult, with Mr Denktash still apparently seeking some kind of formal recognition for his breakaway state, which is recognised only by Turkey.

But with Cyprus due to join the European Union in 2004, the pressure to find a solution has never been greater.

Turkey has warned it could annex the Turkish Cypriot part of the island if Cyprus joins the EU without a settlement to the 28-year-old conflict.

"What is decisive for the progress of the dialogue is that the two leaders develop a joint vision and a joint goal for the future of Cyprus," Mr Cem said.

Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974, in response to a Greek-inspired coup, and it still maintains thousands of troops in the northern part of the island.

See also:

29 Dec 01 | Europe
Cyprus dinner date heralds talks
23 Nov 01 | Europe
Turkey holds key Cyprus debate
30 Dec 01 | Europe
Cyprus to hunt for missing people
04 Dec 01 | Europe
Cyprus veterans share chemistry
03 Dec 01 | Europe
Cyprus' quiet crisis
31 Dec 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Cyprus
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