Exclusive: Cyprus unification talks stall over wording of draft agreement

cypriot footballBy Andrew Warshaw, chief correspondent
May 9 - Landmark talks with FIFA aimed at creating an historic deal to unify football in Cyprus have stalled as Greek and Turkish Cypriot officials grapple with the wording of a firm agreement.

Earlier this year the leaders of the respective federations on the bitterly divided island announced they were closer than ever to burying their differences after decades of separation and mistrust.

In what was described by both sides as a crucial breakthrough that could pave the way for ultimate integration, Cyprus Football Association president Costakis Koutsokoumnis met with his opposite number, Cyprus Turkish Football Association leader Hasan Sertoglu to set out a roadmap for a deal that will have ramifications far beyond fans on both sides of the island.

The meeting, the first ever at the headquarters of the unofficial CTFA close to the United Nations-controlled buffer zone, was attended by observers of both FIFA and UEFA and followed a reciprocal visit to the CFA - FIFA members since 1948 - by Sertoglu.

The talks ended with the announcement that the two sides would visit FIFA headquarters in March to try and finalise a deal. But no such meeting took place, calling into question whether an agreement will actually be reached at all on what is a hugely complex issue with entrenched positions on both sides.

Greek and Turkish Cypriot clubs played together in an all-Island league until 1955 when they were forced to go their separate ways. The island has been divided politically since the 1974 Turkish military intervention and although United Nations efforts at re-unification are still ongoing, they have so far failed to yield results.

Insiders have confirmed that the CFA and the CTFA, which is not officially recognised by FIFA, are still discussing versions of the draft and that no date for a meeting with FIFA has yet been fixed. It is understood that the CFA presented its version of the text and that the Turkish Cypriots sent back a counter-text. The next reply from the Greek side is still being awaited.

"We are still working on proposals," said one insider close to the talks. "You can understand that it is a volatile and complicated discussion where discretion is needed."

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