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Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras pauses during his speech at the launching of an equity fund in cooperation with the European Investment Bank, in Athens, Greece, December 22, 2016. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis(reuters_tickers)
ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Wednesday progress had been made in ending a decades-old stalemate over the division of Cyprus, but urged Turkey to drop 'aggressive rhetoric' to reach a deal.
"We are optimistic but with prudence and responsibility, as this situation merits, we will continue to work hard...and hope that we have positive results in the near future," Tsipras said in a speech in the Greek parliament.
"A precondition to that is that the other side... particularly Turkey, come to negotiations in similar spirit, putting aside aggressive rhetoric, and work seriously and responsibly."
Cyprus was split in a Turkish invasion in 1974, triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup. The conflict is a key source of tension between Greece and Turkey, which are fiercely defensive of their respective ethnic kin on the east Mediterranean island.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has accused Greece of "fleeing" efforts to reunite Cyprus and said Turkey will retain troops there for ever to protect minority ethnic Turks.
Talks in Geneva last week failed to produce a breakthrough over the former British colony, though Britain, Greece and Turkey - its 'guarantor powers' under a 1960 independence treaty - agreed to continue consultations on security arrangements which could govern Cyprus after a settlement.
Officials from the three countries were due to meet at a Swiss resort later on Wednesday to discuss the matter.
At issue is a dispute primarily between the Turkish and the Greek sides on whether the system of guarantee should stay in place, allowing Greek and Turkish forces to remain stationed on the island, and the right of intervention in the event of a breakdown of constitutional order.
(Reporting by Michele Kambas, editing by Renee Maltezou and Mark Trevelyan)