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Friday, 3 December, 1999, 21:57 GMT
Talks begin on Cyprus dispute
clerides/annan Mr Clerides (left, with Kofi Annan) wants Cyprus to be reunited as a federation

Talks on the future of the divided island of Cyprus have begun at the United Nations in New York.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan held separate meetings on Friday with the Greek Cypriot leader Glafcos Clerides - the internationally recognised president of Cyprus - and then with the Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.

Cyprus timeline
Independence in 1960
UN intervention in 1964
Greek coup in 1974
Turkish invasion of northern Cyprus in 1974
Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus proclaimed in 1983
Neither side has made any substantive comments after the UN imposed a news blackout on the so-called "proximity talks".

After leaving his meeting with Mr Annan, Mr Clerides said only: "You see, we are smiling." And when Mr Denktash left his meeting, he said: "We had a very good meeting, very useful."

Mr Denktash has said that he is not prepared to speak to Mr Clerides face-to-face.

The talks were adjourned after both sides had completed their hour-long meetings with Mr Annan. Negotiations are set to resume on Monday morning and will probably be chaired by the UN chief's special adviser on Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto.

Before meeting Mr Clerides on Friday, Mr Annan said: "I hope we will be able to discuss the core issues, stick to the issues, and move forward gradually."

Annan/Denktash Mr Denktash (right) wants the north to be a state in its own right
However the secretary-general said he did "not expect any miraculous solution" from the proximity talks.

He said he hoped "at the end of this process we will be able to come with a comprehensive solution that will assure the young people of the island a peaceful and harmonious future".

The talks - which are expected to last up to 10 days - are the first since negotiations broke down between the two leaders in 1997.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when troops from Turkey occupied the north of the island after Greek Cypriot rebels staged a coup to unite it with Greece, then ruled by a military junta.

A Turkish Cypriot state was proclaimed in 1983 with Mr Denktash as president but it is recognised only by Turkey.

Greek-Turkish friction
Ottoman (Turkish) rule over Greece until 1832
Territorial disputes over Aegean islands
Continuing division of Cyprus
Mr Clerides wants the island to be re-united in a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation.

Mr Denktash, however, insists the north should be treated as a state in its own right, and will only talk about a confederation between two independent states - a looser union than a federation.

UN Security Council resolutions say any settlement of the island's problems should be based on a single state made up of two politically equal communities.

The division of Cyprus is one of the most enduring problems facing the United Nations, which has maintained a peacekeeping force on the island since 1964.

The parties to the proximity talks are also looking to a European Union summit in Helsinki later in December at which Turkey's candidacy for EU membership and progress on Cyprus's membership negotiations will be discussed.

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