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Cyprus leaders agree to start peace talks March 22, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus News, Cyprus Occupied, Politics.
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Cyprus President Dimitris Christo-fias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat yesterday agreed to kickstart stalled peace talks and pledged to reopen a landmark street in the divided capital of Nicosia as a goodwill gesture.

The meeting between the two leaders, mediated by the United Nations’ permanent representative for the island Michael Moller, was the first since Christofias was elected to his post last month. It was “very positive and cordial” and revealed “a great degree of convergence,” according to Moller, who said that the men would meet again in three months. “The leaders have also agreed that Ledra Street should open and function as soon as technically possible,” he added. Officials in Nicosia said the crossing, in the city’s shopping district, could be open within a week.

Until the next scheduled meeting in June, the two leaders’ aides are to set up working committees to examine the resolution of practical issues.

Both leaders appeared positive and determined after yesterday’s talks. “We agreed to work together in a spirit of good will,” Christofias said, adding, “We shall examine any possible disagreement together.” Talat was even more effusive. “This is a new era for the solution of the Cyprus problem,” he said, adding that a settlement could even be found by year-end. Christofias did not refer to a timeframe. “We didn’t mention anything about the basis or parameters of the solution,” he said.

Nicosia’s Ledra Street opening would shatter symbol of division March 21, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus News, Cyprus Occupied, Politics.
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Hopes remain high for Cyprus breakthrough if crossing is established

Peace talks… > Cyprus President Dimitris Christofias, who is to meet Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat today, said he is ready for peace talks but stressed that there can be no quick fix solution.

21-03-08_ledra_street_crossing.jpg  A Cypriot soldier stands guard by a temporary bulkhead at a Cypriot outpost next to the UN buffer zone that divides the Greek and Turkish Cypriot controlled areas of Nicosia.

The hustle and bustle of shoppers eyeing trendy boutiques on the southern side of Nicosia’s Ledra Street is not unlike what you would encounter in the commercial heart of any European city.

21-03-08_ledra_street1.jpg  Yet steps away from where couples huddle to sip coffee and buskers ply their trade stands an armed soldier guarding a barricade – a stark reminder that Nicosia remains Europe’s last divided capital in its last partitioned country.

Today, the island’s rival leaders are expected to agree on opening a crossing at Ledra Street – a deeply symbolic move that would give a lift to a fresh reunification drive. Up close, there is nothing remarkable about the 2.5 meter (8 foot) high barricade of aluminium and plastic boards.

21-03-08_ledra_street3.jpg  It certainly is less forbidding than the concrete wall torn down a year ago. But it rudely interrupts a vibrant street in the capital’s medieval core, shutting out a decaying no-man’s land of weed-strewn streets and crumbling buildings that slices the island into a Greek-Cypriot south and an occupied and military controlled Turkish-Cypriot north.

The UN-controlled buffer zone has been in limbo since 1974 when Turkey invaded in response to a failed coup by supporters of uniting the island with Greece. And the Ledra Street barricade has been the most poignant symbol of the enduring separation between the once-warring communities.

Expectations are high that Greek-Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat will jointly announce a Ledra opening today to serve as a springboard for the start of talks on breaking years of deadlock on reunification. On Wednesday, President Christofias said Greek Cypriots were «ready to proceed with the opening at Ledra Street.»

The buildup to a Ledra opening has attained an air of inevitability. Nicosia’s Mayor Eleni Mavrou repeatedly said a crossing could be readied within five days of an announcement, despite months of work to shore up derelict buildings on either side of the pedestrian walkway.

Even a key Greek-Cypriot objection to Turkish army patrols near a future crossing that scuttled previous attempts at an opening appears to have been overcome: Aides to Christofias and Talat suggested last week that Turkish troops would pull back enough to remain out of sight of the crossing.

21-03-08_ledra_street2.jpg  Another breach in the buffer zone would be nothing new – five crossings have opened since 2003 when Turkish Cypriots eased restrictions. Greek and Turkish Cypriots have since crisscrossed the divide hundreds of thousands of times, setting aside old trepidation and mistrust to see old friends and visit homes they had been barred from visiting for nearly three decades.

But a Ledra Street crossing would resonate most with Cypriots jaded after decades of stalemate and a heap of failed peace initiatives. That’s because Ledra’s mystique as the embodiment of division would be shattered – offering fresh hope for unification.

«It could serve as an ice breaker, I think we are able work things out with the Turkish Cypriots,» said Chrysanthos Trokkoudes, 69, whose health food store is a stone’s throw away from the barrier.

Ledra Street has been a symbol of separation since January 1964 when British peacekeepers laid barbed wire across the street between Nicosia’s Greek and Turkish Cypriot sectors after brokering a cease-fire agreement.

The street’s division was cemented in 1974 with the invasion. «A symbol of division may now turn out to become a symbol of reunification,» said veteran Turkish-Cypriot politician and former mayor of northern Nicosia Mustafa Akinci. Besides hope, a crossing would offer the tangible benefit of injecting new life in the old town nestled within 15th-century Venetian walls. Tourists and locals eager to satisfy their curiosity would boost commerce, especially in the less cosmopolitan Turkish-Cypriot north.

Cyprus leaders set for dialogue next week March 13, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus News, Cyprus Occupied, Politics.
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The newly elected Cyprus President, Dimitris Christofias, is to meet with Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat in Nicosia next Friday for talks that, it is hoped, will lead to the island’s reunification, a United Nations official said yesterday.

The two leaders will meet at the UN’s Headquarters at Nicosia Airport in the presence of the alliance’s representative on the island, Michael Moller, UN spokesman Jose Diaz said.

The announcement was made following a meeting between the two leaders’ aides that was described by Moller as “very cordial and constructive.” “The two aides reached a great degree of convergence on the issues discussed, including on the possible future opening of the Ledra Street crossing,” Moller said.

However Christofias, leaving for a European Union summit in Brussels yesterday, said he was concerned about the “provocative” stance adopted by Talat over the past few days. Christofias reiterated that a stalled July 2006 agreement between the two sides for the launch of exploratory talks on specific issues should be the basis for renewed talks.

Cypriot leaders to meet on March 21 March 12, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus News, Cyprus Occupied, Politics.
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Newly elected Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat will meet on March 21 to try to relaunch talks to reunite the island, a United Nations spokesman said on Wednesday.

“The date of the meeting has been set for March 21st,” Jose Diaz, a spokesman for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Cyprus, told Reuters.

Christofias was elected last month, pledging to end a stalemate in talks between the Greek and Turkish communities on the eastern Mediterranean island, which remains a hurdle to Turkey’s aspirations to join the European Union.

Cyprus was divided in 1974, when Turkish troops invaded its northern third in response to a brief coup by Greek-Cypriot extremists at the urging of the military then ruling Greece.

Reunification talks stalled in 2004 when Greek Cypriots rejected a U.N. blueprint, which was accepted by the Turkish Cypriots.The two sides agreed in 2006 to look at an incremental approach to negotiations, but that too has stalled because of disputes over its agenda.

Christofias’s predecessor, Tassos Papadopoulos, last met with Talat in September 2007. The meeting reaffirmed a deadlock in negotiations.

Cyprus eyes water imports March 11, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus News, Nature.
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Drought-hit Cyprus is seeking water supplies from Lebanon to cope with a crippling shortage which has seen its reserves fall to dangerously low levels, the Cypriot Agriculture Minister said on Friday.

Technical details of the transfer by ship tankers will be discussed in the coming month, Agriculture Minister Michalis Polinikis said. “Over the next 10 days, we will be looking at the technical details of transferring water from Lebanon,” he said.

The Mediterranean island has seen little rainfall this winter, marking the fourth consecutive year of drought. Reservoirs are about 10 percent full. The island also has two desalination plants running at full capacity and a third is due to come on stream later this year. Authorities were also considering quotas on water use to control waste, the Minister said.

Lebanon, which lies 243 kilometers (151 miles) southeast of Cyprus, was offering Cyprus the water without charge.

Cyprus peace would carry hefty dividend March 7, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Business & Economy, Cyprus News, Cyprus Occupied.
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Cyprus’ economy would gain at least 1.8 billion euros ($2.75 billion) on an annual basis if there were a reunification deal on the ethnically partitioned island, economists said yesterday.

Economic benefits would come mainly from new business opportunities with Turkey, tourism revenue and construction, the survey sponsored by the Norway-based Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) said. “Translated into household income, the annual dividend per family comes to approximately 5,500 euros per year,” PRIO said in a news release yesterday. That represents 20 percent of the average income of Greek Cypriots, and 40 percent of Turkish Cypriots, it added.

Cyprus, an island of around 1 million people, was partitioned in a Turkish invasion in 1974. Greek Cypriots, who represent the island in the European Union, have no direct trade or diplomatic links with the Turkish-led statelet in the island’s Turkish occupied and military controlled north.

The southern areas of Cyprus controlled by the Greek-Cypriot government joined the eurozone on January 1, 2008. The northern part, a Turkish-Cypriot breakaway state recognized only by the government in Ankara, stayed out.

Economic disparities between the two sides are huge. Gross domestic product in the south was 15.5 billion in 2007, and approximately 2 billion in the north in 2006, according to the latest data available.

Economists from both sides of the divide based their projections on a seven-year game plan should a settlement be reached in 2009, and using Greco-Turkish trade relations, which have flourished in the past decade, as their reference point.

Greek and Turkish-Cypriot community leaders are expected to meet in the last fortnight of March to discuss how to resume peace talks. Reunification efforts collapsed in 2004 when Greek Cypriots rejected a UN settlement blueprint accepted by Turkish Cypriots.

PRIO is financed by the Norwegian Research Council, the United Nations and the World Bank.

Ayia Napa off limits February 29, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus Ayia Napa, Cyprus News.
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The Mayor of Ayia Napa, a popular tourist resort in southeastern Cyprus, has called for a year-round ban on British troops based on the island following a string of violent incidents in the area involving soldiers.

The move came after nine British soldiers were charged with smashing up a bar and attacking locals. “Under the circumstances we believe it would be better if we declare the whole of Ayia Napa off limits to British soldiers from the bases,” Mayor Nakis Tsokkos said.