ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey sees a “window of opportunity” to end the decades-old division of Cyprus and expects peace talks between Greek and Turkish Cypriots to resume in November after a lull of almost 18 months, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Wednesday.
Talks have stalled in part because of financial turmoil engulfing the island, but discussions on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly meetings in New York last month have lent the process renewed impetus, Turkish officials said.
The island has been divided into Greek and Turkish parts since a Greek Cypriot coup was followed by a Turkish invasion of the north in 1974. Turkey keeps some 30,000 troops in the north and is the only nation to recognize the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
In 2004, a plan proposed by then-U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan was rejected by Greek Cypriots in a popular vote.
“There hasn’t been any progress in the negotiations for the past nine years. Now we think there is a window of opportunity,” Davutoglu told a joint news conference in Ankara with his Turkish Cypriot counterpart Ozdil Nami.
He said Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot leaders were due to meet in November on the island and that representatives from each side would then visit Athens and Ankara.
“This meeting will be an important psychological step,” he said, adding it could pave the way for a talks in a quartet involving Turkey and Greece.
Nami said the eventual target was to hold a referendum on a proposed deal by March 2014.
The ‘Cyprus Question’ has defeated generations of diplomats. Emotions run high on both sides of the divide, with memories still vivid of communal violence in the 1960s and the trauma of the coup and Turkish invasion in 1974.
Greek Cypriot officials have played down the prospects of any imminent breakthrough, highlighting a broad range of potential obstacles from territorial adjustments to a complex web of property claims.
Reporting by Tulay Karadeniz; Additional reporting by Michele Kambas in Nicosia; Writing by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Nick Tattersall nd Ralph Boulton