Cyprus president seeks momentum

Cyprus President Dimitris Christofias on Sunday sought to capitalize on the pledges for rapprochement made by Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the weekend to push forward flagging peace talks on the island.

Apparently inspired by an exchange of messages of peace and friendship between Erdogan and Papandreou, who both called for movement on Cyprus negotiations in their talks over the weekend, Christofias appealed to both communities on the divided island. ?I just want to give out a message of love and reconciliation, a message of friendship to the Greek Cypriots and to our Turkish-Cypriot compatriots,? he said. Christofias added that he was prepared to do everything in his power ?to reunify Cyprus on the basis of certain principles, to bring an end to the occupation [of the Turkish-held north of the island] and for us to all return to our homes.? The last point is a reference to islanders driven from their villages following Turkey?s invasion of Cyprus in 1974.

Christofias?s comments came a day after those of Papandreou during a visit to the eastern Turkish city of Erzurum. Addressing an audience of diplomats in a joint press conference with Erdogan, Papandreou remarked, ?You cannot become a member of the European Union as long as the occupation of Cyprus continues.?

Christofias is on Tuesday expected to meet in Nicosia with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the first German head of government to visit the Cyprus capital. Christofias, whose talks with Turkish-Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu have produced little progress, heralded the visit as ?of great weight and huge significance? for the latest United Nations-mediated peace initiative.