9 June - Setting up economic, social, cultural, sports and other ties between the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot communities can play a crucial role in promoting progress in the reunification talks under way on the Mediterranean island, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.

“Such contacts would nurture a sentiment of trust between the communities and help to ease the sense of isolation felt by the Turkish Cypriots,” Mr. Ban wrote in his latest report on the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Cyprus (UNFICYP).

He stressed that enhanced economic and social parity between the sides will make “the eventual reunification not only easier but also more likely.”

In 2008, the leaders of the two communities committed to establishing a federal government with a single international personality, along with a Turkish Cypriot Constituent State and a Greek Cypriot Constituent State, each of equal status.

Power-sharing negotiations, backed by the UN, began in September of that year, with the two communities having met dozens of times since then.

Both sides, the new report said, have continued to rely on UNFICYP for help on matters ranging from humanitarian and economic matters to bicommunal issues affecting the daily lives of Cypriots, especially in the buffer zone.

Set up in March 1964 following the outbreak of violence between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities, the mission is tasked with preventing a recurrence of fighting, contributing to a return to normal conditions and the maintenance of law and order.

Stressing the essential role UNFICYP plays on Cyprus, the Secretary-General recommended that the Security Council extend the mission's mandate for an additional six months until 15 December.

Last week, Alexander Downer, Mr. Ban's Special Adviser, told reporters that reunification talks are continuing along the parameters agreed between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders and the UN.

“All chapters are being negotiated with the aim of increasing the points of convergence on the understanding that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” he said in the city of Larnaca.

Representatives of Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu and Greek Cypriot leader Demetris Christofias will meet again this week, according to Mr. Downer, who will be briefing the Security Council tomorrow on the latest developments.