UN official in Cyprus to work on relaunching negotiations
(dpa) - A senior United Nations official began three days of talks on Monday with Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders in an effort to examine what the best approach would be to relaunch negotiations to reunify the divided Mediterranean island.
With newly elected Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias in office, expectations are running high for reunification talks to resume, stalled since a UN-brokered peace plan came to nothing almost four years ago when Greek Cypriots voted no.
"I am always optimistic," Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe told journalists after meeting with Christofias on Monday.
Pascoe will be in Cyprus until Wednesday to sound out how the United Nations can help both parties in their efforts to relaunch negotiations.
Both Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat agreed earlier this month to set up several teams of experts to look at issues ranging from environment and health to property and territory disputes as part of their preparations for full negotiations.
They also promised to resume peace talks by the end of June and in the meantime are preparing to open up a barricaded pedestrian street in the centre of the divided capital Nicosia in early April.
Ledra Street, which has come to symbolize the island's division, is a busy pedestrian thoroughfare marking the dividing line between the ethnic Greek and Turkish parts of the city.
The area to be opened that will link the two sides of Ledra Street, closed since 1963, is around 75-80 metres long and is currently considered no-man's-land and patrolled by UN peacekeepers.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded the northern third of the island in response to a brief Greek-inspired coup.