Greek Cyprus: Border crossinges to open soon

New Cyprus President Demetris Christofias said on Wednesday he hopes to open a border crossing soon to link the Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot communities in the capital of the divided island.

Greek Cyprus: Border crossinges to open soon

He expected an announcement to be made on the crossing at a meeting with Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, which is likely to take place this month.

Christofias, 62, won a runoff election on Feb. 25, riding a wave of discontent against his predecessor's hardline policies towards Turkish Cypriots. He quickly came under pressure to make good on his promises to push reunification efforts.

After meeting Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis in Athens, Christofias said: "I had the opportunity to inform the prime minister of a meeting with Mr Talat that will take place soon."

He added: "The hope is that during this meeting we will announce the opening of the Ledra Street crossing."

Cyprus has been divided since Turkey invaded in 1974 after a brief Athens-backed Greek-Cypriot coup.

Civilian crossings have been permitted from one side to the other at five points along a U.N.-controlled ceasefire line since Turkish-Cypriot authorities eased restrictions in 2003. Individuals must show identification cards to cross, with the sides manned by police and customs agents.

Ledra Street in the capital Nicosia has its own significance as one of the first points where barricades went up to separate the two sides in inter-communal fighting in the 1960s.

It is the commercial hub on both sides of the capital but is blocked at its centre, which is part of a U.N. buffer zone.

The Greek-Cypriot side tore down the wall dividing Ledra last year in a symbolic move but said there would be no access for civilians.

Peace talks have been in limbo since 2004 when Greek Cypriots, shortly before joining the European Union, rejected a U.N. reunification plan accepted by Turkish Cypriots.

The EU recognises the Greek-Cypriot government in the south of the island, where Christofias was elected last month.

Karamanlis, whose country is a guarantor power with Turkey and Britain, said he expected "substantial progress on a settlement" within 2008.

Diplomats have said the island could face permanent partition if nothing is done soon.

Reuters

Last Mod: 06 Mart 2008, 11:26
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