September 26, 2008 / 7:23 AM / 11 years ago

Former U.S. President Carter and Tutu to visit Cyprus

NICOSIA (Reuters) - Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter will visit Cyprus in October to offer support for reunification talks between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, diplomats said on Friday.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former Algerian Foreign Minister Lakhdar Brahimi will also travel to the island from October 8-9 for meetings with the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders.

“After decades of division, this is a time of hope for the people of this beautiful island. These opportunities don’t come around very often,” Tutu was quoted as saying in a statement issued by The Elders, a group of world leaders formed in 2007 by former South African President Nelson Mandela.

Cyprus was split in a 1974 Turkish invasion triggered by a Greek-inspired coup. Turkish Cypriots live in its north and Greek Cypriots in the south, and numerous attempts to reunite Cyprus have failed.

Newly elected Greek Cypriot leader Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat started a new round of reunification talks on September 3.

“We will do what we can to ensure that the foresight and courage of Mr Talat and Mr Christofias are acknowledged and supported in Cyprus, in the region and around the world,” Tutu said.

The next round of Cyprus talks are expected on October 10. Although there is no cut off date for talks, the Cyprus stalemate is complicating Turkey’s bid to join the European Union, where Greek Cypriots represent the island.

The United Nations is expected to be largely hands-off in the present round of consultations. A U.N. reunification blueprint for the island rejected by Greek Cypriots in 2004.

If the sides agree to a deal, it will need to be approved by Cypriots in separate community referendums.

Reporting by Michele Kambas, editing by Elizabeth Piper

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