Turkish Cypriot President Mehmet Ali Talat and Greek Cypriot leader Demetris Christofias met for the 40th time Wednesday in the buffer zone as part of negotiations to find a solution to the Cyprus problem.

The first round of Cyprus talks concluded after the leaders met.

The United Nations Secretary General's Special Envoy to Cyprus Alexander Downer, speaking after the two-and-a-half-hour-long meeting, said important progress was recorded in the first round of talks.

Downer said the parties were pleased to complete the first round. The two leaders will begin the second round of talks on Sept. 3.

Talat and Christofias started the talks Sept. 3, 2008.

Turkish Cypriots aim to complete negotiations by the end of this year and hold a referendum at the beginning of 2010.

Cyprus joined the EU as a divided island when Greek Cypriots in the south rejected a UN reunification plan in twin referendums in 2004; the Turkish Cypriots in the north overwhelmingly supported it.

The promise made by EU foreign ministers before the referendums to end the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots and establish direct trade with northern Cyprus remains unfulfilled.

Gaining independence from the U.K. in 1960, Cyprus became a bi-communal republic where Greek and Turkish Cypriot constituent communities would share power guaranteed by the U.K., Turkey and Greece. However, reluctant to share power and pursuing a policy of enosis (union) with Greece, Greek Cypriots soon expelled Turkish Cypriots from power and a civil war soon followed.

First round of Cyprus peace talks completed - Hürriyet Daily News and Economic Review

Decades-long armed attacks on the Turkish Cypriots culminated in 1974 when an Athens-backed Greek Cypriot military coup on the island led to Turkey's intervention based on its rights stemming from the guarantorship agreement, but viewed as illegal by the international community.

Cyprus remains an important regional issue for the stability of the Hellenic and Balkanic region of Europe.