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Overview at the start of the peace talks on divided Cyprus, under the supervision of the United Nations in the alpine resort of Crans-Montana, Switzerland June 28, 2017. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse(reuters_tickers)
By Tom Miles
CRANS-MONTANA, Switzerland (Reuters) - Rival Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders opened talks on Wednesday aimed at reuniting the divided island after more than 40 years, but need to overcome prickly issues in what some fear could be the last chance.
Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson left Switzerland on Wednesday before the talks officially opened to fly home for a parliamentary session, officials said.
Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci met in the Swiss Alpine resort of Crans-Montana, joined by U.N. envoy Espen Barth Eide, senior European Union officials and the foreign ministers of Greece and Turkey.
But Johnson left on Wednesday morning after taking part in preliminary meetings on Cyprus and a working dinner on Tuesday night, a British spokeswoman and U.N. spokesman said. The foreign ministers of the other two guarantor powers, Greece's Nikos Kotzias and Turkey's Mevlut Cavusoglu stayed on.
U.N. spokesman Aleem Siddique said on Wednesday: "The U.K. remains represented at the conference and we expect ministerial representation at some point in the proceedings."
Cyprus was split in a Turkish invasion in 1974, triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup. Turkey supports a breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in northern Cyprus.
The negotiations on the long-running conflict are the best chance, but maybe not the last one, for the estranged sides to get an agreement, Eide said on Tuesday.
The United Nations is seeking a peace deal uniting Cyprus under a federal umbrella and which could also define the future of Europe's relations with Turkey, a key player in the conflict.
Two issues are vexing: Turkish Cypriot demands for a rotating presidency, and Greek Cypriot demands that Turkey pulls all its 30,000 troops off the island, and renounces its intervention rights.
In a statement, the group "Unite Cyprus Now" welcomed the summit "in what we fear could be the last chance to reunite our island".
It called on Anastasiades and Akinci "who have made unprecedented progress in the negotiations to find a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus problem, to show the necessary leadership and courage to end the longstanding division – a division that blights our children’s future and limits the enormous potential of our beautiful island".
The leaders should find "mutually acceptable solutions to the security and guarantees question", it said.
(Reporting by Tom Miles in Crans-Montana, additional reporting by Michele Kambas in Athens, writing by Stephanie Nebehay,; Editing by Toby Chopra and Ed Osmond)