(dpa) - Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias was scheduled to return from an oversees trip earlier than expected on Friday after a checkpoint ceremoniously opened a day earlier was forced to close following a dispute over how the street should be policed.
Greek Cypriot authorities temporarily closed the southern entrance to the crossing on Ledra Street late Thursday, in the main shopping district of the divided capital that had once been barricaded for the last 44 years, just hours after it opened to the public.
The opening was meant to serve as a starting bloc for peace negotiations between Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat.
But the presence of Turkish Cypriot police in the United Nations controlled buffer zone triggered the abrupt closure of the crossing point for more than two hours on Thursday.
The closure ended after dozens of protestors gathered on both sides calling for its re-opening and UN officials mediated between rival police forces.
The problems forced Christofias to cut short a scheduled visit to London, where he was expected to attend a banking conference until Sunday.
"Due to the violations by the Turkish Cypriot police based on negotiations for the opening of Ledra Street and the problems which occurred last night, President Christofias has seen it necessary to immediately return to the island so as to follow closely the situation," said a press ministry release.
The opening of Ledra Street, as it is known in Greek - and Lokmaci in Turkish - was part of a landmark deal between Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat on March 21 who agreed to resume peace negotiations by the end of June.
The reopened area links the two sides of Ledra Street, closed since 1963, and becomes the sixth crossing point allowing people to enter the Greek Cypriot south and Turkish Cypriot north.
UN demining experts as well as Greek and Turkish Cypriot engineers had been preparing the crossing, which runs through a UN controlled buffer zone, for pedestrians. They have been paving roads and shoring up buildings with scaffolding for the past week.
Hundreds of Cypriots ended up using the crossing point during the first day of its opening, following a ceremony attended by United Nations officials as well as Greek and Turkish Cypriot officials.
Ledra Street was barricaded in 1964 when British peacekeepers decided to divide the street between Nicosia's Greek and Turkish communities as a result of inter-communal fighting.
The entire island has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded the northern third of the island in response to a brief Greek- inspired coup.
With newly elected 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.
Both Christofias and Talat agreed last month to resume peace talks by the end of June and 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.
Christofias said the next step for Greek and Turkish Cypriots will be to demilitarise the entire area of Nicosia.
"The opening of Ledra Street is a very positive step ... the next step in my opinion will be for the demilitarisation of the entire area of Nicosia and to open the crossing point at Leminitis," Christofias said as he was about to board a plane for London.