UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has arrived in Cyprus, as he attempts to put new life into efforts to solve one of Europe's longest-running disputes. The latest round of peace talks have been taking place for more than a year, but the problems which have split the island in two go back decades.
To sum it up briefly, Cyprus used to be part of the Ottoman Empire (now Turkey), until it became part of the British Empire. Most of the people in Cyprus are Greek, and during the 1950s an insurgency aimed at overthrowing British rule and uniting Cyprus with Greece took place, ending in a deal which led to Cyprus becoming independent, something neither the Greeks nor the Turks especially wanted. Later, as the Turkish government began to worry that Greece was moving to bring Cyprus under its control, it invaded the north of the country, where most of the Turks lived. That was 36 years ago, and all that time there have been two Cypruses, the Greek in the south and the Turkish in the north, and that hasn't made anyone particularly happy, either.
There have been various attempts to thrash out some kind of better deal since, but all have failed. This latest round of talks had seemed more likely to succeed than most, not least because the political leaders of both communities in Cyprus seemed keen on it. But enough members of their electorates are not for keen for the talks to be fraught with political risk, and the Turkish-Cypriot leader seems likely to lose an election in April to a hardliner. So if there's going to be progress, it needs to be in the next few weeks, which is why Mr Ban is in town. But he's no miracle-worker, the chances of a significant breakthrough remain very remote.