Page last updated at 10:55 GMT, Monday, 3 July 2006 11:55 UK

Rare meeting for Cyprus leaders

Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos (right) and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat meeting in Nicosia
Peace talks have been stalled since the 2004 referendum

The President of Cyprus, Tassos Papadopoulos, has met Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat for the first time in two years.

The talks focused on the fate of some 1,500 people officially classed as missing on the divided island.

There has been no direct contact between the two leaders since Greek Cypriots rejected UN-backed proposals to reunite Cyprus in April 2004.

Diplomats hope the talks might pave the way for further high-level contacts.

But Monday's encounter was brief - just over an hour - and no further meetings were announced. Mr Talat described the talks as "good and sincere".

Cyprus has been split into the Greek Cypriot-controlled south and the Turkish-occupied north since Turkey invaded in 1974, in the wake of an abortive coup by supporters of union with Greece.

'Symbolic' talks

Mr Papadopoulos and Mr Talat met at a UN compound in the divided capital Nicosia to mark the resumption of efforts to locate the remains of the people officially classed as missing.

Map of Cyprus
Nearly all of them were killed either at the time of the Turkish invasion or in the sporadic outbreaks of ethnic violence that preceded it.

The two leaders say their initiative is solely humanitarian.

Later this week, UN Under Secretary General Ibrahim Gambari will visit Cyprus after meetings in Greece and Turkey, to assess the chances of reviving reunification talks.

Turkey's refusal to recognise European Union member Cyprus has complicated the opening of talks on Ankara's bid to join the EU.

By October, Turkey is required under EU rules to open its ports to Cypriot-registered ships, but Ankara says it will not do so unless Europe agrees to trade directly with Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus.

The breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) is recognised only by Ankara.

What is the future for Cyprus? What is the significance of this meeting? Do you live in Cyprus? Send us your views using the link below:

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