Cypriots to open new crossing

NICOSIA (AFP) – Ambulances yesterday tested a planned new crossing point linking the two sides of divided Cyprus, officials said, as rival leaders wrapped up the first phase of United Nations-brokered peace talks. The crossing links the village of Kato Pyrgos in northwestern Cyprus – in an area held by the Greek-Cypriot government – with Limnitis in the breakaway Turkish-Cypriot part of the island. The road has been shut since 1964. Greek-Cypriot officials said it was temporarily opened in a test run to see if ambulances could still use the road that was built during British rule before 1960. Both sides have agreed to allow fire vehicles and ambulances to use the crossing in emergencies, while work continues to build a proper crossing point to improve better transport links with the capital Nicosia for Kato Pyrgos residents. When established, the European Union-funded crossing will be the seventh enabling travel between areas held by the internationally recognized Greek-Cypriot government and the Turkish-Cypriot north, and will serve one of the remoter parts of the island. The Greek Cypriots had demanded its opening as a confidence-building measure to help advance reunification talks relaunched in September 2008. The crossing in the remote region is not expected to operate before the start of next year. Cyprus President Dimitris Christo-fias and Turkish-Cypriot leader Meh-met Ali Talat, meanwhile, held their 40th meeting yesterday as the first phase of talks was officially completed before the August break. «First of all, they are very pleased to announce that the first reading has now been completed,» UN envoy Alexander Downer told reporters. «Certainly, from the perspective of the United Nations, we would say that this is good progress, and it shows that there has been significant progress in these negotiations,» he added. The second phase will begin on September 3, when the leaders will discuss power sharing issues before going on to property rights. Christofias said afterward that he had expected more progress to have been achieved after yearlong negotiations.