Cyprus peace talks resume after two-month gap

Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades and his Turkish Cypriot counterpart Mustafa Akinci have agreed to schedule four new meetings, in a new phase of reunification talks

Rival Cypriot leaders on Tuesday rebooted stalled UN-backed reunification talks for the island and agreed to pick up lost momentum after a two-month suspension.

The leaders agreed to schedule four new meetings, in a new phase of talks, with the first beginning on April 20.

"I hope this new round of negotiations will take us to a point where we can say there are convergences that lead us to a Cyprus solution," Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades told reporters after Tuesday's three-hour session.

"I welcome the resumption of dialogue during which there was a fruitful exchange of views."

He said there was no time frame for a when a settlement should be reached but any solution could not "ignore the fears" of either community.

Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci resumed the talks in the UN-controlled buffer zone that divides the island, under the guidance of UN envoy Espen Barth Eide.

UN-facilitated Cyprus talks came to a standstill in February in a row over Greek Cypriot schools marking the anniversary of the 1950 "Enosis" referendum in support of union with Greece.

In mid-February Akinci suspended his participation in the 22-month process in protest after the Cyprus parliament backed a move for schools to commemorate the vote.

He returned to the negotiation table after a majority of Greek Cypriot lawmakers amended the legislation on Friday.

But during the hiatus the climate of trust between the sides has deteriorated, with each side blaming the other over the stalled process.

There are other obstacles too.

The leaders are still far apart on core issues such as power-sharing, territorial adjustments, security arrangements and property rights.

Added into the mix are Greek Cypriot presidential elections next February and the republic's search for oil and gas.

New offshore drilling is expected in June, which Ankara wants to see stopped until peace talks have reached an outcome.

Anastasiades said natural gas was not discussed at Tuesday's meeting.

"What we have repeatedly said... is that natural wealth belongs to the people of Cyprus," he said.

The two sides have been engaged in fragile peace talks since May 2015 that observers have seen as the best chance in years to reunify the island.

Much of the progress until now has been based on the strong personal rapport between Anastasiades and Akinci, leader of the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

The eastern Mediterranean island has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded the northern third in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking Enosis.

After a failed peace referendum on a UN blueprint in 2004, the Cyprus Republic now headed by President Anastasiades joined the European Union as a divided country, while the Turkish-held north remains recognised only by Turkey.