World

Ethnically split Cyprus' Christian, Muslim leaders lend backing to reunification talks

  • Cyprus' president Nicos Anastasiades, Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci shake hands as the Greek Cypriot Orthodox Archbishop Chrysostomos II, left, and the Turkish Cypriot religious leader Mufti Yalip Atalay look on after a meeting at UN buffer zone at Ledra palace hotel in divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015. The heads of Cyprus' Christian and Muslim communities are meeting with the ethnically divided island's rival leaders to lend their support to ongoing reunification talks. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

    Cyprus' president Nicos Anastasiades, Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci shake hands as the Greek Cypriot Orthodox Archbishop Chrysostomos II, left, and the Turkish Cypriot religious leader Mufti Yalip Atalay look on after a meeting at UN buffer zone at Ledra palace hotel in divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015. The heads of Cyprus' Christian and Muslim communities are meeting with the ethnically divided island's rival leaders to lend their support to ongoing reunification talks. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)  (The Associated Press)

  • From left, front line, Armenian Orthodox church Nareg, Greek Cypriot Orthodox Archbishop Chrysostomos II, Cyprus' president Nicos Anastasiades, Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, Turkish Cypriot religious leader Mufti Yalip Atalay, Maronite church Archbishop Soueif and Latin catholic church Rev Jerzy Kraj pose for photo after a meeting at UN buffer zone at Ledra palace hotel in divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015. The heads of Cyprus' Christian and Muslim communities are meeting with the ethnically divided island's rival leaders to lend their support to ongoing reunification talks. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

    From left, front line, Armenian Orthodox church Nareg, Greek Cypriot Orthodox Archbishop Chrysostomos II, Cyprus' president Nicos Anastasiades, Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, Turkish Cypriot religious leader Mufti Yalip Atalay, Maronite church Archbishop Soueif and Latin catholic church Rev Jerzy Kraj pose for photo after a meeting at UN buffer zone at Ledra palace hotel in divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015. The heads of Cyprus' Christian and Muslim communities are meeting with the ethnically divided island's rival leaders to lend their support to ongoing reunification talks. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)  (The Associated Press)

  • From left, the Maronite church Archbishop Soueif, Greek Cypriot Orthodox Archbishop Chrysostomos II, Turkish Cypriot religious leader Mufti Yalip Atalay, Armenian Orthodox church Nareg and Latin catholic church Rev Jerzy Kraj pose for photo before a meeting with Cyprus' president Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, at UN buffer zone at Ledra palace hotel in divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015. The heads of Cyprus' Christian and Muslim communities are meeting with the ethnically divided island's rival leaders to lend their support to ongoing reunification talks. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

    From left, the Maronite church Archbishop Soueif, Greek Cypriot Orthodox Archbishop Chrysostomos II, Turkish Cypriot religious leader Mufti Yalip Atalay, Armenian Orthodox church Nareg and Latin catholic church Rev Jerzy Kraj pose for photo before a meeting with Cyprus' president Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, at UN buffer zone at Ledra palace hotel in divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015. The heads of Cyprus' Christian and Muslim communities are meeting with the ethnically divided island's rival leaders to lend their support to ongoing reunification talks. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)  (The Associated Press)

An official says talks between the heads of Cyprus' Christian and Muslim communities and the leaders of the ethnically split island's Greek- and Turkish-speaking communities give "great hope" that religion can better contribute to peace.

Sweden's Peter Weiderud, who facilitated the meeting, says although religion has never been at the root of the Cyprus conflict, religion and the right to freely worship have become victims of it.

Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and breakaway Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci met Thursday with the heads of Cyprus' Orthodox Christian, Armenian, Maronite and Latin Catholic churches as well as the Turkish Cypriot Grand Mufti.

Cyprus was divided in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup aimed at union with Greece. The meeting is believed to be the first of its kind.