Some 250 Greek and Turkish Cypriots marched on Wednesday in support of an accord reunifying their ethnically divided island ahead of a summit that will likely decide whether a deal on Cyprus is possible.
Crossing the United Nations buffer zone dividing the capital Nicosia, demonstrators handed Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci a declaration urging him and Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades to seize the moment and reach agreement "without hesitation."
Demonstrators held placards reading "Yes To A Solution" and chanted "Cyprus belongs to its people" in both Greek and Turkish.
"We're here supporting the process," Turkish Cypriot Salih Ostoprak said. "We definitely expect a solution....Peace is for the benefit of Greece, Turkey and for the whole region."
Emerging from his office to greet the demonstrators, Akinci said he is hopeful a summit next month in Geneva where the thorniest aspects of the decades-old dispute will be tackled marks "beginning of a new era."
The demonstrators also marched to the presidential palace, where they handed the declaration to Deputy Minister Constantinos Petrides. Anastasiades was in Brussels attending a meeting of European Union leaders.
"Know that I'll continue my efforts for reunification," he said on his official Twitter account.
Cyprus was split in 1974 when Turkey invaded in the wake of a coup aiming at union with Greece. Turkish Cypriots declared a breakaway state in 1983 which only Turkey recognizes. While the island joined the European Union in 2004, only the internationally recognized Greek-speaking south enjoys full membership benefits.
In Geneva, Anastasiades and Akinci plan to negotiate how much territory would be in the respective Greek and Turkish Cypriot zones of an envisioned federation. If they reach agreement, a meeting of Cyprus' so-called guarantors - Greece, Turkey and former colonial ruler Britain - would be held to discuss post-settlement security arrangements. [AP]