River of people grows

As thousands of Cypriots crossed the buffer zone for a second day yesterday in a moving display of «people power,» Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash appeared to waver in his side’s decision to ease restrictions on travel on the divided island. Denktash said the number of people crossing might be limited, ostensibly to prevent long queues at Nicosia’s Ledra Palace checkpoint. «With good will, we will take care of delays and problems,» he told the Turkish-Cypriot TAK news agency. «A limit may be put on the number of people crossing in a day.» But he ruled out the opening of new checkpoints. «There is no need to rush things… We cannot open holes all over the country,» he said. Greek Cypriots, who had not seen the north of the island since the Turkish invasion of 1974, began to cross over in greater numbers yesterday, visiting their old homes as word spread of the ease of the crossing. By last night, 3,075 Greek Cypriots and 1,787 Turkish Cypriots had crossed over, compared to 1,700 Greek Cypriots and almost 3,000 Turkish Cypriots a day earlier. The Cypriot government, which on Wednesday called the easing of travel a Turkish-Cypriot publicity stunt, began to provide free bus transportation for Turkish Cypriots wanting to visit southern cities. Government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said there was no difference with the Greek government, as Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou had called Wednesday a «festive day» and appeared to have fewer reservations than the Cypriot government. «There is no difference between the Greek and Cypriot governments on this development,» Chrysostomides said. Yesterday, after discussing foreign policy issues with PM Costas Simitis, Papandreou said: «The citizens of Cyprus want this wall to be torn down… There are, of course, practical issues and problems in this whole issue but I think that it is a joyful event that this dynamic increases the wishes of common people for the island’s reunification.» The United States hailed the development. «We welcome genuine measures that have a potential to increase contact and understanding between the two communities and thus improve the atmosphere in which to create a just and durable settlement,» State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said. Newspapers on both sides of the island hailed the breach in the formerly impervious wall between their people.