DISCUSSIONS aiming to reunify Cyprus have failed to reach an agreement, according to UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres. His statement once again dashed hopes that the island’s 43-year ethnic split could be healed.

Guterres made the announcement after marathon, UN-sponsored talks concluded at a Swiss resort yesterday.

“Unfortunately ... an agreement was not possible and the conference was closed without the possibility to bring a solution to this dramatically long-lasting problem,” he said.

“I want to express my deep gratitude and appreciation to the leaders of the two communities and to wish the best to all Cypriots north and south.”

However, Guterres did not entirely shut the door on any renewed, UN-assisted attempt to get the island’s Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and the leader of the breakaway Turkish Cypriots Mustafa Akinci back to the negotiating table again.

“The conference is closed,” said Guterres. “That doesn’t mean that other initiatives cannot be developed to address the Cyprus problem.”

Also participating in the talks were Cyprus’ three “guarantors” — Greece, Turkey and former colonial ruler Britain.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the talks collapsed because of a Greek and Greek Cypriot insistence that Ankara should remove all of its troops from the island — and for military intervention rights to be abolished.

“For Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot side it is not acceptable for troops to be withdrawn,” Cavusoglu said.

Security arrangements for an envisioned federal Cyprus were the linchpin of a reunification deal. The issue revolves around the more than 35,000 troops Turkey has kept in the island’s breakaway Turkish Cypriot north since 1974, when it invaded following a coup mounted by supporters of uniting Cyprus with Greece.

Greek Cypriots in the island’s internationally recognised south see Turkish soldiers as a threat and want them to leave. The island’s minority Turkish Cypriots want them to stay to protect them.