European Commission appoints envoy for Cyprus talks

The European Commission said Friday it has appointed an envoy to assist in the U.N.-brokered Cyprus reunification talks aimed at ending 35 years of division on the island.

“The president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, has decided to detach Leopold Maurer as his personal representative to the Good Offices Mission of the United Nations in Cyprus,” the commission said in a statement. 

It said the appointment of Austrian diplomat Leopold Maurer followed a request by the U.N.

“President Barroso and the European Commission are committed to supporting the Cyprus settlement process. Mr Maurer will provide advice to the U.N. Good Offices Mission on E.U.-related matters,” the Commission said.

Maurer led the commission’s negotiations team for Cyprus’ accession to the bloc in May 2004.

Both the internationally recognized government in Nicosia, headed by Greek Cypriot leader Demetris Christofias, and the Turkish side, led by Mehmet Ali Talat, have since called for more European assistance in the peace process.

Christofias and Talat have agreed to step up the pace of their renewed peace talks. The negotiations are now in a crucial second phase.

The Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot leaders are to resume their negotiations next week, with the international community hoping for a breakthrough by the end of this year.

Progress has been sluggish since renewed talks were launched in September 2008. The two sides remain far apart on the thorny issues of security, property and land swaps.
The Mediterranean island has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded its northern third in response to a Greek-engineered Greek Cypriot coup aimed at union with Greece.

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