Cyprus rivals to meet Tuesday for peace talks relaunch: UN

NICOSIA (AFP) - Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot leaders are to meet on Tuesday to relaunch talks on ending the island's four-decade division after a nearly two-year break, UN mediators announced.

"Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu will meet in the United Nations Protected Area of Nicosia at the Good Offices Mission on Tuesday," a statement said on Saturday.

The two leaders will unveil a roadmap for the renewed talks, which was finally agreed on Friday after protracted haggling over the text delayed a relaunch originally earmarked for November.

The last round of talks was suspended in 2012 when Cyprus assumed the rotating presidency of the European Union.

A resumption was further delayed by the eurozone debt crisis, which forced the Greek Cypriot government to secure a bailout from international creditors last March, plunging the island into deep recession.

But on Thursday, Mr Anastasiades, who is also the president of the island's internationally recognised Greek Cypriot government, said there were "serious prospects" of resuming talks with the Turkish Cypriots as the two sides neared agreement on the blueprint.

And on Friday, Mr Eroglu's office announced that agreement had finally been reached.

The eastern Mediterranean island has been divided since Turkish troops occupied its northern third in 1974 in response to an Athens-engineered coup aimed at uniting it with Greece.

A breakaway state which Turkish Cypriot leaders declared in 1983 is recognised only by Ankara.

Cyprus joined the EU in 2004 still a divided island, after Greek Cypriot voters rejected a UN reunification blueprint that was approved by Turkish Cypriots.

On Friday, Greece gave its backing to renewed talks, with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras calling them "one of the leading priorities of Greek foreign policy".

The two sides will "sit around the table and will be responsible for driving the negotiations towards a solution", Mr Samaras said after talks with Mr Anastasiades in Athens.

A text of the joint statement leaked to the media says any final agreement would be subject to simultaneous referendums among both communities.

The United States has also offered its support, and it is thought that pressure from Washington prompted the breakthrough.

On Friday, Vice President Joe Biden expressed Washington's "unwavering support" for a Cyprus settlement and said he "looked forward to a successful resumption" of the talks, in a call with Anastasiades.

The lack of progress towards a Cyprus solution is hampering Turkey's own ambitions to join the EU.