Leaders on Cyprus get to work

NICOSIA (AFP) – Intense consultations begin this week to prepare the ground for renewed Cyprus peace talks aimed at ending more than three decades of division and conflict on the Mediterranean island. Cyprus President Dimitris Christofias, whose election in February sparked a fresh drive for peace, and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat agreed on Friday to launch reunification talks in three months. Hopes are high that this time around rival leaders from the separated Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot communities have the political courage and conviction to finally hammer out a road map to peace and end the 34-year divide. «This is a new beginning that may turn out to be a starting point in a search for a settlement,» Joseph Joseph, professor of political science at Cyprus University, told AFP. «After four long years of stagnation and deadlock, everybody now realizes it could be the last and best hope for a settlement. We have a new president with a fresh mandate, the right attitude and who is forward-looking. Talat is open-minded and flexible. Both leaders have a good personal and political relationship. So, the pressure is there. The right people are there and there is conviction from the international community.» The rival Cypriot leaders announced a landmark decision to open a street in the heart of Nicosia, Europe’s last divided capital city, as a gesture of good will. «Ledra Street is a good start but not enough on its own,» an EU diplomat told AFP. Advisers from both sides will meet today to form working groups and technical committees which will set the agenda for future talks. Christofias’s chief aid George Iacovou will meet with his Turkish-Cypriot counterpart Ozdil Nami to agree on the number of committees needed and the issues they will tackle. These issues will be a mixture of everyday problems, such as crime and immigration, as well as the more thorny subjects encompassing property rights.

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