NEWS

Cyprus edges forward

Athens yesterday welcomed a series of measures proposed by the Greek Cypriots for a limited military withdrawal from the line that divides Cyprus. «The package of confidence-building measures which the Cypriot government announced confirms its will and determination to undertake specific initiatives in order to create the necessary climate that will help the effort to solve the Cyprus issue and reunify the island,» Foreign Ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos said. «The implementation of these measures, whose announcement has already drawn positive responses from the UN and members of the international community, will benefit both communities as they will contribute to strengthening the sense of security and encourage cooperation on Cyprus.» The Cypriot government on Friday proposed a military pullback from the UN-patrolled ceasefire line as part of a series of confidence-building measures. «This is an initiative in confidence-building measures to help create a climate of security between the two communities,» government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said. The Greek-Cypriot National Guard would disengage from the Green Line in Nicosia and it would pull back in the Dherynia and Strovilia areas. Also, Nicosia proposed that curbs be imposed on military exercises and that a military-free area of 2 kilometres (1.2 miles) be established on both sides of the line. «The measures we have presented are conditional on reciprocity from the Turkish side,» stressed presidential aide Tassos Tzonis, according to Agence France-Presse. Nicosia is also calling for the abandoned coastal resort of Varosha to be returned to the Greek Cypriots, who in exchange would agree to joint control of the nearby Famagusta port to facilitate Turkish-Cypriot trade. The Greek Cypriots have decided to demine the UN-manned buffer zone unilaterally. The government also wants to open eight more checkpoints to encourage greater trade and travel. «We would welcome any and all mutually agreed steps that can reduce military tensions in Cyprus,» US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on Friday. But he added these were not a substitute for a settlement.