Published Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014 | 5:35 a.m.
Updated Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014 | 5:37 a.m.
NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — The leaders of Cyprus' Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities embarked Tuesday on a new round of talks aimed at achieving the long-elusive goal of reunifying the ethnically split island nation.
The two leaders met for 90 minutes inside the U.N.-controlled buffer zone that slices across the capital, Nicosia, to herald the restart of talks after a 20-month stalemate.
Cyprus was split into an internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south and a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup aiming to unite the island with Greece.
Talks resumed after Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and the leader of the breakaway Turkish Cypriots, Dervis Eroglu, agreed on a document outlining a planned federation.
It's a different approach from previous talks, one that Anastasiades insisted was necessary to prevent talks from dragging on without results like so many earlier rounds of negotiations over the last four decades.
"Today's joint statement outlines the basic principles for a solution," Anastasiades told reporters after the meeting. "What's required now is the vision and determination of the leaders and the people of Cyprus to rebuild trust between them, but also to achieve a settlement that leaves no winners and losers."
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy in a statement hailed the restart of talks and said the declaration laid "a solid foundation" for a peace accord.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose country's troubled EU membership bid is further hobbled by the Cyprus dispute, expressed hope the talks take "no backward steps."
However, Anastasiades faces strong domestic pressure from critics who say the document contains the seeds of possible Turkish Cypriot statehood, which could unravel any peace accord and lead to a permanent partition.