Turkish Cypriot leader pays impromptu visit to Greek Cypriot south

Türkiye Materials 11 April 2008 22:18 (UTC +04:00)

( Xinhua ) - Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet AliTalat on Friday crossed the buffer zone which has divided the island for decades for an impromptu visit to the Greek Cypriot part of the newly opened Ledra Street in central Nicosia.

It was the first time that a Turkish Cypriot leader walked to the Greek Cypriot south since 1974.

Accompanied by his bodyguards and aides, Talat walked on the busy commercial street that reopened last week. The fall of barricades on the street was seen as a change of climate for the resumption of substantive reunification talks due to restart by June.

Talat shook hands with Greek Cypriot policemen, talked with local people in Greek, drank a cup of coffee in a local coffee shop and purchased a Greek music CD.

"This is just to convey my best wishes to the Greek Cypriot people," Talat told reporters, adding that the Turkish Cypriot side was genuinely interested in finding a solution to the Cyprus problem.

Talat noted that the opening of Ledra Street does not mean the realization of reunification, but "it helps to create a better climate, so I think this is an important development and I want just to see, observe the benefit of it."

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey militarily intervened and occupied the north of the island following a coup by a group of Greek officers.

In 1983, the Turkish Cypriot authorities declared the breakaway" Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus," which is recognized only by Turkey.

In a referendum held in April 2004, Greek Cypriots rejected a comprehensive settlement plan by then U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, while Turkish Cypriots approved it. The Greek Cypriots entered the European Union in the name of the Republic of Cyprus in May. The reunification talks have collapsed since then.

The opening of Ledra Street for pedestrians was agreed at a March 21 meeting between the newly elected pro-solution Greek Cypriot leader Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Talat. They also pledged to resume the fully-fledged reunification talks by the end of June.