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Cyprus talks resume amid mistrust

Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat (left) and Cypriot President Demetris Christofias. Photo: 3 November 2008
The two leaders say they are committed to finding a deal

Cyprus' rival leaders have resumed talks on re-unifying the island, amid growing public pessimism that the negotiations could lead to a deal.

Greek Cypriot President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat met in the UN buffer zone to discuss power-sharing plans.

Meanwhile, a recent survey showed that less 20% of Greek and Turkish Cypriots were optimistic about the peace talks.

The talks resumed in September after a four-year stalemate.

Cyprus split in two in 1974, when a Greek-inspired coup prompted a Turkish invasion of the northern third of the island.

The Greek Cypriot south is an EU member, but only Turkey recognises the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus as a state.

Thorny issues

Mr Christofias and Mr Talat discussed a power-sharing formula in what was their sixth meeting since the resumption of the peace talks.

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"The talks will not be a road strewn with rose petals," Mr Christofias told reporters at the weekend.

"I want to make it clear that I'm not about to interrupt negotiations. We haven't entered this process to interrupt it," he added.

Power-sharing is one of a number of thorny issues. Another is property arrangements for thousands of displaced Cypriots on both sides of the divide.

'Shock'

The latest round of talks came as a report published last week revealed that only 18% of Greek Cypriots and 13% of Turkish Cypriots were optimistic that there could be a positive outcome.

The survey by the Brussels-based Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) also found that there was a massive degree of mistrust between the two communities.

It said that as many as 99% of Greek Cypriots did not trust the Turkish Cypriot leadership.

Researchers noted that there were also splits inside both communities.

Public enthusiasm for the peace talks has certainly been lacking since they began, but the degree of pessimism revealed by the latest survey comes something as a shock, the BBC's Tabitha Morgan says.

Given this degree of mistrust at several levels, the politicians could have difficulty in selling any solution to the public even if they managed to agree on one among themselves, our correspondent says.

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