The hope is that the "proximity talks", which Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general, opened with Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders, might lead them to agree to meet face-to-face on reuniting the island.
Mr Annan's modest objective, according to his special adviser on Cyprus, under- secretary general Alvaro de Soto, is "to prepare the ground for meaningful negotiations leading to a comprehensive settlement". The talks could continue for a couple of weeks.
The island has been partitioned since the Turkish invasion in 1974.
Today the so-called Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC), a statelet recognised only by Ankara and ruled by Rauf Denktash, is little more than a province of Turkey. The Republic of Cyprus itself is a Greek Cypriot state led by President Glavkos Clerides, and is a prime candidate for membership of the European Union in the current enlargement negotiations.
Mr Denktash insists no progress is possible until his statelet is recognised as titular equal to the Republic of Cyprus. Instead of the generally accepted goal of a "bi-zonal, bi-communal federation", he demands a much looser confederation.