President Nicos Anastasiades on Thursday began a new phase of Cyprus peace talks with Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci following a bumpy few months with regards to relations between the two sides.
The UN-brokered talks at the old Nicosia airport began at 7:40pm, an hour late from schedule because of an accident to Akinci’s wife who has dislocated her shoulder. The meeting lasted for two-and-a-half hours.
“The climate in the meeting was good but the differences are still there,” was the brief statement Anastasiades made to journalists at the Presidential Palace upon his return.
The divided island’s two chief negotiators are set to meet today to carry on with where last night’s meeting ended, he added.
It was the leaders’ first meeting since the presidency referendum in Turkey which has threatens to destabilise the country.
And all this while the two sides are still uneasy over the on-going gas explorations within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Republic of Cyprus.
The signing of more exploration contracts with major energy players Exxon Mobil, Total, Eni and Qatar Petroleum only prompted Turkey to escalate its threats in the region and dispatch its own exploration vessel within the disputed waters off Paphos.
The Turkish threats were also raised during Thursday’s meeting between Anastasiades and Akinci.
Even though the main items on the agenda were EU matters, governance and the federal economy.
Meanwhile, chief negotiators Andreas Mavroyiannis and Ozdil Nami had met on Wednesday night.
Mavroyiannis and his team had earlier met with Attorney General Costas Clerides at the Presidential Palace to discuss the demand of Turkey for the four freedoms to be granted to all Turkish nationals post-reunification.
Both leaderships have drawn criticism of late with the Turkish Cypriot coalition slammed for banning a Greek Cypriot church service in Famagusta to take place during Easter.
At the same time, the Cyprus government came under fire after accusations that they turned back delegations of school children from different countries that had arrived at Larnaca airport to attend a dance festival in the breakaway north.
Earlier this month, the two sides decided to reconvene at the negotiating table since the ignominious end to the previous talks in which Akinci walked out of the negotiations in the fall-out of the Enosis Day bill controversy. A parliamentary amendment later eased tensions.