Cyprus leaders agree to meet again to end division

21/03/2008 - 13:01

By Michele Kambas and Simon Bahceli

NICOSIA (Reuters) - Leaders of Cyprus's Greek and Turkishcommunities agreed on Friday to meet again in three months inan effort to reunite the divided island, a major hurdle toTurkey's bid to join the European Union.

The United Nations said Greek Cypriot leader DemetrisChristofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat alsoagreed to reopen the barricaded Ledra Street in Nicosia, a keysymbol of the island's division, as soon as technicallypossible.

"The leaders have agreed to meet three months from now,"said Michael Moller, the U.N. special representative in Cyprus,who hosted the first encounter between the two men at a U.N.controlled territory splitting Nicosia, Cyprus's war-dividedcapital.

"The leaders have also agreed Ledra, as soon as technicallypossible, should open and function," he added.

It was the leaders' first encounter since Christofiasbecame Cyprus's president last month, raising hopes for a newround of talks, stalled since 2004 when Greek Cypriots votedagainst a U.N. reunification plan.

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.

Greek and Turkish Cypriots have lived separately since aTurkish invasion in 1974 in response to a brief Greek-inspiredcoup. Peace efforts collapsed in 2004 when Greek Cypriotsrejected a U.N. reunification blueprint accepted by TurkishCypriots, and soon afterwards joined the European Union alone.

(Writing by Dina Kyriakidou, Editing by Matthew Tostevin)

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