Cypriot president warns against failure of new peace talks

(dpa) - Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias said on Wednesday that the failure of renewed efforts to find peace for the divided Mediterranean island would be devastating for its future.

"This time we must succeed. A new failure will be devastating for the future of our people, both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots," Christofias told a press conference.

"The loss of time is dangerous. I want us to succeed but both sides must have good will," he added.

His comments were made two days before his first "exploratory" meeting with the Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, since he won a general election last month, where the two leaders will look at restarting talks.

It will be the first face-to-face meeting between the leaders of the two communities since last September, when Talat's encounter with Christofias' predecessor Tassos Papadopoulos ended in failure.

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

The Cypriot president said Greek Cypriots are ready to proceed with the opening of Ledra Street, a busy pedestrian thoroughfare in the heart of the capital.

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.

The official announcement of the opening is expected on Friday, right after Christofias' meeting with Talat and it is hoped the long overdue agreement on Ledra Street will provide the momentum for further confidence building measures.

"The opening of Ledra Street will help heal the wounds of the people?it will help lead to further communication and will give the message that the leaders want to move forward with a solution to the problem."

The UN-patrolled buffer zone prevented Cypriots from moving between the two sides until five crossing points opened in 2003.

Ledra will work just like any other crossing point. It will be manned by police officers and the military guard posts will come down. ID cards or passports will be needed to cross from one side to the other.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 after the Turkey invaded the northern third following a planned coup by the military government in Greece to join the island with Athens.

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