NEWS

Hope on Cyprus grows as Ledra Street opens

A major step toward healing the divisions on Cyprus is due to be taken today when a symbolic crossing through the UN-controlled buffer zone in Nicosia will be dismantled so that Greek- and Turkish-Cypriots will be able to pass from one side to the other by simply showing their identity card or passport. Cypriot government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou confirmed yesterday that work on dismantling the Ledra Street barriers is due to be completed today and that a low-key ceremony would be held to mark its reopening. Barricades separating the Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot communities first went up on Ledra Street, a popular pedestrian street for shopping in Nicosia, in December 1963. The crossing has come to symbolize the island’s division since the Turkish invasion in 1974. The removal of the barriers on Ledra Street is evidence of newfound hope for the reunification of the island since the election of Dimitris Christofias as Cypriot president in February. «There is a very positive mood and a palpable sense of momentum here in Cyprus at the moment,» said United Nations senior envoy B. Lynn Pascoe. «I am confident that the two sides, with our help, will succeed and we will do everything we can to support and help the two leaders. «Everyone has been extraordinarily encouraging about the process moving forward.» Ledra Street will be the sixth crossing to open on the island since April 2003 when restrictions on Greek Cypriots entering the Turkish-occupied north of the island were lifted. UN soldiers have over the last few days been checking the buffer zone for unexploded mines.