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Cyprus leaders meet in new reunification drive

21/03/2008 - 9:45

By Michele Kambas

NICOSIA (Reuters) - Leaders of Cyprus's Greek and Turkishcommunities met on Friday in a new effort to break a deadlockin reunification talks that threatens to derail Turkey's bid tojoin the European Union.

Greek Cypriot leader Demetris Christofias and TurkishCypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat shook hands at the start oftheir meeting in the U.N.-controlled zone between the twosectors of the divided capital Nicosia.

In their first encounter since Christofias became Cyprus'spresident last month, they were exploring the possibility of anew round of talks, stalled since 2004 when Greek Cypriotsvoted against a U.N. reunification plan.

"We certainly hope that (this meeting) will give a newstart," said U.N. spokesman Jose Diaz. "I hope there will be anannouncement of the opening of Ledra Street."

The two leaders hope to be able to announce the opening ofLedra, a thoroughfare blocked off for nearly half a century,splitting Nicosia into Greek and Turkish Cypriot sectors -- themost potent symbol of the island's division.

Analysts say this could be the last chance to end Cyprus'sdecades-old ethnic division, and diplomats fear an enduringstalemate would entrench partition, harming Turkey's EU entryhopes and relations with NATO partner Greece.

(Additional reporting by Simon Bahceli; editing by TimPearce)


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