28 February 2011Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders today held the first of two top-level meetings scheduled for this week, under United Nations sponsorship, as they intensified their efforts to reunify the Mediterranean island which has been split for almost 50 years. “The leaders had a good and long discussion today for around two and a half hours,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Adviser on Cyprus, Alexander Downer, told reporters following the meeting between Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias and his Turkish Cypriot counterpart, Dervis Eroglu. “It was a good opportunity for them to talk about a range of issues.”Mr. Downer added that the pair would meet again on Friday, when the talks would focus on governance and power-sharing. The leaders have met more than 90 times since the UN-sponsored talks began in 2008 with the aim of setting up a federal government with a single international personality in a bi-zonal, bi-communal country, with Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot constituent states of equal status.The leaders’ representatives have also met scores of times and will hold another meeting on Wednesday to discuss issues ahead of Friday’s top-level talks.In a report in December, Mr. Ban warned that that the talks could “founder fatally” if substantive agreement is not reached within the next few months. “A critical window of opportunity is rapidly closing,” he said, stressing that Greek Cypriot parliamentary elections scheduled for May and elections in Turkey in June militate against constructive talks in the second quarter of 2011.The Secretary-General met with both leaders in Geneva at the end of January, and the two agreed to intensify the reunification talks for an island that has been split since inter-communal violence erupted in 1964.One of the major issues that have to be resolved concerns property. The Greek Cypriots say those with property in the north should be able to seek reinstatement, while Turkish Cypriots say that if all property owners were allowed reinstatement, it would be impossible for Turkish Cypriots to secure bizonality. They want a ceiling on those who can have properties reinstated instead of compensation.The UN has maintained a peacekeeping force on the island – known by its acronym UNFICYP – since 1964, with a current strength of nearly 1,000 uniformed personnel and 150 international and national civilian staff.