Final deadlines come and go with depressing frequency in the unresolved issue of how the two parts of Cyprus, North and South, Turkish and Greek, can find a way of living peacefully together. The two elderly leaders, Rauf Denktash and Glafcos Clerides, have failed since they both came to power in the 1980s to agree on a solution to the division of their island which was brought about by the Turkish invasion in 1974. For most of the years since then their intransigence has been supported, for their own reasons, by Ankara and Athens.

However, there does at last seem to be a real hope of progress. All four of the outside interests in Cyprus' future are, for the first time, of one mind. The United Nations has produced a plan for a rotating presidency of the whole island which would broadly recognise the existing demarcations. The European Union wants Cyprus as a whole in a settled state in time for its admission to membership in 2004, which has already been agreed in principle. There is a new government in Turkey which wants to act responsibly to further its own EU membership prospects. Greece, currently holding the presidency of the EU, is in turn showing signs of wanting a civilised relationship with Turkey.

There is a fifth force inside Cyprus which could prove especially influential – the Turkish residents who have shown by large demonstrations that they want the stubborn Rauf Denktash to reach a settlement. The next deadline is on Monday when final–state negotiations start once more, hopefully for the last time.