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AP Interview: UN envoy says Cyprus security deal possible

Associated Press logo Associated Press 13/04/2017 By MENELAOS HADJICOSTIS, Associated Press
U.N envoy Espen Barth Eide talks during an interview for the Associated Press at his office inside the U.N buffer zone at the abandoned Nicosia airport in the divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Thursday, April 13, 2017. A United Nations envoy says an "idea" has emerged that may help overcome the key obstacle of security which stands in the way of a deal reunifying ethnically divided Cyprus. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias) © The Associated Press U.N envoy Espen Barth Eide talks during an interview for the Associated Press at his office inside the U.N buffer zone at the abandoned Nicosia airport in the divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Thursday, April 13, 2017. A United Nations envoy says an "idea" has emerged that may help overcome the key obstacle of security which stands in the way of a deal reunifying ethnically divided Cyprus. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

NICOSIA, Cyprus — The United Nations has helped put together a compromise formula that could overcome the key obstacle of security which stands in the way of a deal to reunify ethnically divided Cyprus, a U.N. envoy said Thursday.

Espen Barth Eide declined to give details, but said the formula was the result of consultations with the rival Cypriot leaders, the European Union and the island's "guarantors" — Greece, Turkey and Britain.

"An idea is emerging that I am quite confident could work," Eide told The Associated Press. He said the formula is based on what all sides "actually need" rather than what's currently in place.

Security has long stumped talks to end Cyprus' division that occurred in 1974 when Turkey invaded following a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Turkey, which keeps more than 35,000 troops in the breakaway north, is the only country that recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence.

Turkey says it wants to keep troops on the east Mediterranean island and maintain the right to intervene militarily as part of any reunification deal. Turkish Cypriots insist Turkey's military presence would be instrumental to their security. But Greek Cypriots see it as a threat and an instrument of Ankara's influence on the island that's at odds with EU norms.

"I think a mutual agreement on security and guarantees is possible," Eide said, though he added that he's worried if there was enough trust and will on both sides to achieve a peace accord — a rare display of concern about the talks after nearly two years of solid progress.

Eide urged Nicos Anastasiades — the island's Greek Cypriot president — and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci to show "true leadership" before domestic and regional developments over the next several months make talks more difficult.

"We can walk this path with Cyprus, but we cannot do it for you ... If the Cypriots don't want it, we don't want it," he said.

Negotiations resumed on Tuesday following a two-month halt that bled momentum from process.

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