Feuding Cypriot leaders to relaunch unification talks

March 12th, 2008 - 7:37 pm ICT by admin  

Nicosia/Athens, March 12 (DPA) Newly elected Cyrus President Dimitris Christofias and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat are to meet March 21 to try to relaunch talks to reunite the divided Mediterranean island, a UN spokesperson said Wednesday. “The date for the meeting has been set for March 21,” said Jose Diaz, a spokesperson for the UN peacekeeping mission in Cyprus.

Hours after his presidential election victory Feb 24, Christofias pledged to relaunch stalled peace talks quickly, with Talat saying he believed a deal could be reached by the end of the year.

Negotiations between the island’s two communities broke down in 2004 after Greek Cypriots rejected a UN plan to end the decades-old division and instead joined the European Union without the Turkish Cypriots.

Since the 2004 referendum, former Cypriot president Tassos Papadopoulos had made no real attempt to break the deadlock in negotiations.

The two sides agreed in June 2006 to continue negotiations, but they too stalled because of disputes over the agenda.

Papadopoulos last met Talat in September 2007.

Christofias expressed hope that “exploratory” talks with Talat would result in the opening of one of the busiest commercial streets in the divided capital Nicosia, Ledra Street, in addition to the Limnitis barricade.

UN envoys are working on ways to open up Ledra Street in the middle of the capital Nicosia, which has been blocked off for decades, making Nicosia the only divided capital in Europe.

The street is among the busiest commercial avenues in the city at both its Greek and Turkish ends but it is divided and forms part of the UN buffer zone where no one is allowed access.

Limnitis is located in the northwest of the island.

A total of five checkpoints have been opened since April 2003, when Turkish Cypriots opened crossings towards the south for the first time since 1974.

The long-running standoff is a thorn in relations between NATO allies Greece and Turkey and has been an obstacle to Turkey’s efforts to move towards EU membership.

Christofias said the most important goal would be to have a unified, demilitarised Cyprus.

The island has been divided since 1974, and Cyprus is represented internationally by the Greek Cypriot government in the south, while the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north is recognized only by Ankara, which maintains 30,000 troops in the enclave.

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