Greek, Turkish Cypriot leaders to meet April 16, first since peace talks collapse

ATHENS (Reuters) - Leaders of Cyprus’s two ethnically split communities have agreed to an informal meeting on April 16, the United Nations mission on the island said on Friday.

The meeting between Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci will be the first since U.N.-led peace talks collapsed in acrimony in Switzerland in July 2017.

The two sides had then disagreed on the future role Turkey could play in a post-settlement Cyprus, split in a Turkish invasion in 1974 after a brief Greek-inspired coup engineered by the military which was then ruling Greece.

The evening meeting on April 16 does not herald the start of a new round of peace talks, but would clarify where the sides stand on the issue.

The perils of a deadlocked process have come into sharper focus after a public spat between Cyprus’s internationally-recognized Greek Cypriot government and Turkey in overlapping claims of jurisdiction for offshore oil and gas research.

A vessel charted by Italy’s state-controlled Eni was unable to reach an area Cyprus licensed for drilling because of Turkish military maneuvers in a two-week standoff in February.

Turkey has vowed to prevent what it sees as a unilateral move by Greek Cypriots to claim offshore resources as its own, but EU member Cyprus has shown no signs of backing down.

Brussels has urged Turkey to avoid threats and refrain from actions that could damage relations with the bloc. Last week EU leaders condemned what they described as ‘continued illegal actions’ by Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The encounter between Akinci and Anastasiades will take place at the residence of the U.N. envoy on the island, Elizabeth Spehar, in a ‘buffer zone’ compound used by peacekeepers straddling the two sides in Nicosia, the divided capital.

A U.N. mission has been on the island since the early 1960s, when a power-sharing administration between Greek and Turkish Cypriots crumbled amid violence just three years after independence from Britain.

Writing By Michele Kambas; Editing by Richard Balmforth