Turkish Cypriots: Maronites can return to army-held villages

Authorities in the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north of the ethnically divided island of Cyprus say they have lifted restrictions on Maronite Christians from reclaiming homes and property in villages that have been under Turkish military control for over four decades.

Wednesday's announcement by the office of Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci came three weeks after the collapse of high-level talks in Switzerland that aimed to reunify the island as a federation.

Authorities said a timetable on when the Maronites — Christians from Syria and Lebanon who came to Cyprus centuries ago — will be allowed to return will be prepared shortly.

Maronites fled four villages in 1974 when Turkey invaded following a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Some returned to two villages, but two other villages stayed in Turkish army hands.