Settlement 'in reach' to end partition of Cyprus, says Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson has said a settlement is "in reach" to end the partition of Cyprus as he prepared to join international talks aimed at reunifying the island after more than four decades of division.

The Foreign Secretary is due to join the United Nations-led conference in Geneva along with representatives of Greece and Turkey - the island's other two "guarantor" powers.

Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci have been in discussions in Switzerland since Monday in an attempt to clear the ground for an agreement.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Mr Johnson praised their efforts and said there was now an opportunity to achieve a "lasting peace" for both communities.

"I welcome the continued courage and commitment that has been shown by both sides. The UK fully supports the settlement process and is ready and willing to help in any way it can," he said.

"I hope that all those involved will approach the talks with a sense of openness and flexibility. I believe that if approached in this light, a solution is in reach to bring lasting peace to Cyprus".

UN envoy Espen Barth Eide said on Wednesday that while a final deal was unlikely to be agreed this week the framework for a settlement could be put in place.

"So don't expect that we will be walking home from Geneva - or rather flying - to Cyprus with a comprehensive settlement in our hands. But we will go home with a sense that it is coming," he told reporters.

"We have dealt with some of the most difficult issues. We have touched upon almost all of them, we have solved many of them, and we are close to solving some other issues."

The Mediterranean island has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops staged an invasion in response to a coup by Greek Cypriots aimed at uniting with Greece.

UN peacekeepers continue to patrol the buffer zone between the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north - recognised only by Turkey - and the internationally recognised Greek Cypriot south.

One of the key issues to be resolved in the talks is security, with more than 30,000 Turkish troops still in the north.

Any settlement is likely to involve a federal arrangement with the two communities sharing power in a united Cyprus.

However, they have struggled in the past to agree on the territory each side will control, with talks between Mr Anastasiades and Mr Akinci almost breaking down in November.

Any settlement will have to be supported in separate referendums of the two communities. A previous agreement in 2004 was rejected by Greek Cypriot voters.