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Page last updated at 15:34 GMT, Friday, 25 July 2008 16:34 UK

Cyprus sets date for peace talks

Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias (r) gestures next to UN special representative to Cyprus Taye-Brook Zerihoun
The talks have been stalled since 2004

The leaders of the divided island of Cyprus have agreed to launch reunification talks on 3 September, the United Nations has said.

The agreement came after discussions between the leaders of the rival Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities.

Talks have been stalled since 2004 when Greek Cypriots rejected a UN peace plan which was backed by Turkish Cypriots.

The island has been divided for 34 years into a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north and the Greek Cypriot south.

The announcement came after Greek Cypriot leader Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat met for two hours in the UN-controlled buffer zone which divides the island.

Referendums

"The aim of the fully-fledged negotiations is to find a mutually acceptable solution to the Cyprus problem, which will safeguard the interests of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots," said Taye-Brook Zerihoun, head of the UN mission on the island.

Cyprus map

He said any agreed solution would be voted on by both communities in two separate referendums.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops occupied its northern third, following a Greek Cypriot coup inspired by the military junta ruling Greece at the time.

Representatives from both sides have been holding discussions in recent months to prepare for formal reunification talks.

The opening of the symbolic crossing at Ledra Street in April - closed since violence flared between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities in 1964 - was seen as a major confidence-building measure ahead of the talks.

The island's partition has long stood as an obstacle to Turkey's bid to join the EU.

The Republic of Cyprus, which joined the EU in 2004, can still veto Turkey's accession.

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