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Page last updated at 17:23 GMT, Tuesday, 30 September 2008 18:23 UK

Cyprus leader in new peace move

Cyprus President, Demetris Christofias, addressing Council of Europe, 30 Sep 08
President Christofias says he is committed to achieving peace

The Cyprus President, Demetris Christofias, has called for the abolition of annual military exercises on the divided island.

He also proposed reaching a deal on full demilitarisation of the capital Nicosia, where Greek and Turkish-Cypriots live in separate sectors.

Mr Christofias launched fresh peace talks with the Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat earlier this month.

Both leaders agree in principle on a future federal structure for Cyprus.

But a power-sharing arrangement is among the key issues to be resolved, along with security matters, property disputes and Turkey's military presence in the island's north.

Cyprus has been split since a Turkish invasion in 1974, that followed a brief Greek-inspired coup in Nicosia.

Demilitarisation plan

In a speech to the Council of Europe on Tuesday, Mr Christofias said he had called for abolition of the annual military exercises in Cyprus, during talks with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon last week.

Cyprus map

"I refer specifically to the Nikiforos exercise, carried out by the Cyprus National Guard, and the Toros exercise, carried out by the Turkish military forces in Cyprus," Mr Christofias said.

"In addition, I propose that measures of military de-escalation also be agreed upon and implemented, such as the disengagement of forces, particularly in the Nicosia region, including the full demilitarisation of the old town within the Venetian walls, the designation of a Demilitarised Zone, and other measures," he said.

Such measures would improve the climate surrounding the negotiations and increase their chances of succeeding, he said.

A United Nations buffer zone - the "green line" - currently separates the two communities.

Turkey has 35,000 troops in the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north, which is recognised only by Ankara.

The last attempt at a negotiated solution - in 2004 - collapsed when Turkish Cypriots voted in favour of a UN settlement plan which was rejected by Greek Cypriot voters.

As a result, Cyprus joined the European Union that year as a divided island, with Turkish Cypriots denied the bloc's membership benefits.


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