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Cyprus peace talks meeting ends abruptly

A feud over Cyprus's troubled history has led to the abrupt halt of reunification talks between the ethnically split island's rival leaders, with confusion over who walked out on whom.

It is unclear what this means for the 21-month-long process that has made significant headway on a deal reunifying the small island as a federation.

Tensions have been running high this week following strong Turkish Cypriot protests against new legislation making the annual commemoration of a 1950 vote for union with Greece compulsory in Greek Cypriot schools.

Cyprus gained independence from British colonial rule in 1960 but was split 14 years later when Turkey invaded in the wake of a coup by supporters of union with Greece.

An official said it was Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci who had first walked out of the talks.

Mr Akinci, though, said Nicos Anastasiades, the island's Greek Cypriot president, stormed out of the meeting first and slammed the door behind him after stating that he had nothing more to say.

Mr Akinci said the talks have not collapsed but it is up to the Greek Cypriots to get negotiations back on a solid footing.

"We've reached this point, but I don't want to close all the doors to the negotiations," Mr Akinci told reporters.

Mr Anastasiades told reporters he would speak on the matter later.

Turkish Cypriots see the Greek Cypriot bid for union with Greece that culminated in a 1955-59 guerrilla campaign against British colonial authorities as being the root of the island's current woes.

Mr Akinci said the legislation on commemorating the event, proposed by the far-right party ELAM, "sowed the seeds of division" among young people and called on United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres to intervene and get the legislation rescinded.

Mr Anastasiades rebuffed Mr Akinci's claims, saying a "mere reference to historical fact" in no way signalled a change in Greek Cypriot policy to reunify Cyprus as a federation.

More than 95% of the majority Greek Cypriots voted in favour of union with Greece in the 1950 plebiscite.

Some Greek Cypriot politicians criticised the new legislation as badly timed during sensitive peace talks, adding that it was unnecessary because the vote is already being taught in schools.

Greek Cypriots celebrate the start of the 1955-59 guerrilla campaign each year with school parades on its April 1 anniversary, which is also a public holiday.

AP

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