From: Reuters
Published March 21, 2008 08:02 AM

Cyprus leaders agree to meet again to end division

By Michele Kambas and Simon Bahceli

NICOSIA (Reuters) - Leaders of Cyprus's Greek and Turkish communities agreed on Friday to meet again in three months in an effort to reunite the divided island, a major hurdle to Turkey's bid to join the European Union.

The United Nations said Greek Cypriot leader Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat also agreed to reopen the barricaded Ledra Street in Nicosia, a key symbol of the island's division, as soon as technically possible.

"The leaders have agreed to meet three months from now," said Michael Moller, the U.N. special representative in Cyprus, who hosted the first encounter between the two men at a U.N. controlled territory splitting Nicosia, Cyprus's war-divided capital.

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"The leaders have also agreed Ledra, as soon as technically possible, should open and function," he added.

It was the leaders' first encounter since Christofias became Cyprus's president last month, raising hopes for a new round of talks, stalled since 2004 when Greek Cypriots voted against a U.N. reunification plan.

Analysts say this could be the last chance to end Cyprus's decades-old ethnic division, and diplomats fear an enduring stalemate would entrench partition, harming Turkey's EU entry hopes and relations with NATO partner Greece.

Greek and Turkish Cypriots have lived separately since a Turkish invasion in 1974 in response to a brief Greek-inspired coup. Peace efforts collapsed in 2004 when Greek Cypriots rejected a U.N. reunification blueprint accepted by Turkish Cypriots, and soon afterwards joined the European Union alone.

(Writing by Dina Kyriakidou, Editing by Matthew Tostevin)

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