Cypriot leaders move forward in unification talks

March 21st, 2008 - 11:28 pm ICT by admin  

Nicosia, March 21 (DPA) Cypriot leaders on the divided Mediterranean island said Friday they had agreed to open up the crossing point of Ledra Street in Nicosia, in a move indicating progress towards a solution toward ending the island’s division. Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat made the announcement after emerging from their talks in their first face-to-face meeting inside the UN-controlled buffer zone near the long-abandoned Nicosia airport.

UN special representative to Cyprus, Michale Moller, who mediated the talks, said the two leaders would set up working groups and technical committees by next week.

“In the full responsibility for the conduct of future negotiations, the leaders have also agreed to meet three months from now to review the work of the working groups and technical committees, and using their results, to start full-fledged negotiations under the auspices of the secretary-general of the UN,” Moller told journalists outside his residence located in the buffer zone.

The leaders have also agreed to meet as and when needed prior to the commencement of their formal negotiations.

Ledra Street, which has come to symbolize the island’s division, is a busy pedestrian thoroughfare marking the dividing line between the ethnic Greek and Turkish parts of the city.

The street has been split for decades between the Greek Cypriot south and Turkish Cypriot north and its opening has become almost a litmus test for measures to bring the two communities closer and ease the way to reunification talks.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded the northern third of the island in response to a brief Greek-inspired coup.

With a new Cypriot president in office, expectations are running high for reunification talks to resume, stalled since a UN-brokered peace plan came to nothing almost four years ago after Greek Cypriots voted no.

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