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UN chief, Security Council urge Cypriot rivals to accelerate peace talks
UNITED NATIONS (AP) ' The U.N.'s chief and its most powerful body urged rival Greek and Turkish Cypriots on Wednesday to accelerate peace negotiations aimed at reunifying the divided Mediterranean island.
Cyprus was split into a Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish Cypriot north in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Turkish Cypriots declared an independent state in 1983, but only Turkey recognizes it and keeps 35,000 troops there.
Ban called on the rival leaders to maximize the pace and progress of their talks in Cyprus before meeting him again next month for two days of intensive negotiations outside New York City.
In a resolution extending the U.N. peacekeeping force in Cyprus until July 19, 2012, the Security Council also called on Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu to intensify the momentum of negotiations and try to resolve key outstanding issues before the meeting.
Ban noted that Cyprus takes over the EU presidency in July 2012 and will be heavily involved in other European issues, "so the window of our opportunities for further progress in negotiation is very much limited."
Cyprus joined the European Union in 2003, but only the south enjoys membership benefits.
The U.N. wants to see a positive result from next month's meeting so it can move ahead to an international conference that would solidify a peace deal, the secretary-general said.
The Security Council echoed Ban's view that a peace deal can be reached.
The two sides have been trying to strike an accord for decades, and while some progress has been made, Christofias and Eroglu remain at odds on core issues including power-sharing, what to do with private property lost during the war and military intervention rights for Turkey.
The U.N. peacekeeping force was established up by the Security Council in 1964 to prevent further fighting between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities. After the hostilities of 1974, it took on new duties including supervising ceasefire lines and maintaining a buffer zone. It currently has more than 850 troops, 66 international police and about 150 civilian staff.