Greece Says Cyprus Talks are 'Opportunity' for Settlement

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Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias on Tuesday said the resumption of U.N.-brokered peace talks present a "window of opportunity" to reunify the divided island of Cyprus.

"We are facing a window of opportunity for Cyprus, as American diplomats say," Kotzias told a joint news conference with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, in Turkey's capital Ankara.

Rival Cypriot leaders agreed Monday to resume peace negotiations next week to reach a settlement after four decades of division. 

The announcement came after U.N. envoy Espen Barth Eide hosted a dinner for Nicos Anastasiades, the Greek Cypriot leader, and his Turkish Cypriot counterpart, the newly-elected Mustafa Akinci.

The two leaders had agreed it was "important to use the momentum created and this new opportunity to move forward without delay."

Reunification talks -- which are due to restart on Friday -- have been suspended since October. 

It was the first time the two leaders have met since Akinci –- seen as pro-reunification -- was elected Turkish Cypriot leader last month.

In his first visit to the Turkish capital as foreign minister, Kotzias -- speaking in Greek -- said "a settlement to the Cyprus problem will help solve a lot of problems in the region." 

He hailed Akinci's election in the north as an "important opportunity."

Kotzias previously served as an adviser to former Greek foreign minister George Papandreou in the late 1990s, and was one of the forces behind the so-called "earthquake diplomacy" of the period, which initiated a long period of Turkish-Greek rapprochement.

Cavusoglu said there were enough reasons to be "optimistic", branding the two leaders' meeting as an "important development."

"2015 is a good opportunity. Let's not miss this window of opportunity," he said.

Cavusoglu said Turkey was "more than determined" to reach a final settlement, adding: "If the Greek Cypriot side and Greece exhibit the same determination, I can say we can reach peace on the island this year."

A U.N.-monitored ceasefire line has divided the island since 1974 when Turkish troops occupied its northern third in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece.

Turkish Cypriots, who had already pulled out of government institutions in the face of communal violence in 1963, declared their breakaway state in 1983.

But their state is recognized only by Turkey, which provides around a third of its budget.

Kotzias met on Monday with Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew in Istanbul where he also held talks with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. He was due to travel to Antalya in southern Turkey later in the day to attend a NATO foreign ministers' summit.

- 'Reduce tensions' in Aegean -

NATO allies Turkey and Greece have reached an agreement to reduce military tensions in the Aegean Sea, the two foreign ministers announced.

"We agreed on a set of measures which we believe will enhance maritime safety," Cavusoglu said. 

The two neighboring countries have long been at loggerheads over air control and territorial rights in the Aegean, frequently accusing each other of violations.

Greece claims a 10-mile (16-kilometer) airspace limit around its coastline but Turkey only recognizes six miles, arguing that under international rules Greece's airspace should be the same as its territorial waters.

"We both want to solve the problems and reduce tensions in the Aegean," Kotzias said.

He also voiced Greece's support for Turkey's EU ambitions.

"As Greece, we want Turkey to be a part, a member of the EU," he said. "We want to see a Turkey which adopts EU laws and an EU which sees the assets of Turkish society."

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