ATHENS (Reuters) - Talks in Switzerland between rival communities on ethnically-split Cyprus in November will offer clarity on whether a peace accord can be reached this year, a United Nations envoy said on Thursday.
Estranged Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders are engaged in peace talks on reuniting the island under a federal umbrella.
The sides are scheduled to take their negotiations to Switzerland in early November to discuss territorial trade-offs defining boundaries between Greek Cypriots in the south and Turkish Cypriots in the north.
"It's ambitious, but I believe it is still possible," the United Nations special adviser for Cyprus, Espen Barth Eide, said of the deal.
"The meeting in Switzerland will be significant because it will show with more clarity whether this aim (of a solution) will be possible within the timeframe," he was quoted by the semi-official Cyprus News Agency as saying, referring to the end of this year.
The east Mediterranean island was split in a Turkish invasion in 1974 triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup. Its division is a source of tension between NATO allies Greece and Turkey and an obstacle to Turkish aspirations to join the European Union, in which Greek Cypriots represent Cyprus.
Eide said progress in negotiations had been made, but there were still issues which needed to be settled including security and guarantees.
The security issue relates to the presence of the Turkish army on the island, and the guarantees to a decades-old treaty allowing Turkey, Britain and Greece intervention rights over Cyprus.
Greek Cypriots want the system abolished. Turkish Cypriots want a form of Turkish guarantees to remain.
Switzerland has hosted a number of rounds of negotiations on Cyprus through the decades, the latest long-haul talks being held at the mountain resort of Burgenstock in March 2004.
Those consultations finalised a reunification blueprint prepared by the United Nations which was eventually rejected in a referendum by Greek Cypriots. Turkish Cypriots accepted the plan.
(Reporting by Michele Kambas; editing by Andrew Roche)