NICOSIA - Greek Cypriot newspapers from across the political spectrum hailed as a breakthrough on Saturday an agreement by rival Cypriot leaders to begin fully fledged peace talks in June and reopen a landmark street in the heart of divided Nicosia.
“The two leaders broke the ice and showed they could overcome the veil of suspicion and speak together for a Cyprus solution... rejecting the permanence of negative politics,” said an editorial in the independent Politis newspaper.
“Obviously the Cyprus problem wasn’t solved... and the difficulties start now... but there is momentum and that’s important,” it added.
A fresh initiative to end the island’s three-decade division was brokered at Friday’s meeting between Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat and his Greek Cypriot counterpart, President Demetris Christofias, who was elected last month on a pledge to launch a renewed peace drive.
“The leaders ... agreed to meet three months from now to review the work of the working groups and technical committees and using their results to start fully fledged negotiations under the auspices of the secretary general of the United Nations,” said a joint statement issued after the talks.
Mass selling Phileleftheros called this an “endurance test for the Cyprus problem.”
The daily said that Talat insisted on peace talks within three months regardless of any preparation while Christofias wanted the groundwork to be laid by committees and for that progress to be assessed beforehand.
“Forward step after first meeting,” said the right-wing Simerini newspaper.
The Haravghi newspaper of Christofias’s communist AKEL party hailed a “new dynamic” in the peace process.
Even the nationalist daily Machi welcomed a “whiff of spring” in the reunification process. In a show of goodwill, the two leaders agreed - as soon as technically possible - to reopen Ledra Street running through the heart of Europe’s last divided capital to help underpin the peace drive.
The Alithia daily said the Ledra deal was the product of a climate of “give and take” between the two men. Talat conceded over the three month preparation strategy, while Christofias offered Ledra Street, the newspaper said.
“Both men came out winners, as one offered support to the other. They cemented the peace on Ledra.”
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops occupied its northern third following an Athens-engineered coup aimed at uniting the island with Greece.
Former UN secretary general Kofi Annan proposed a plan that would have ended the division, while offering a significant degree of autonomy to both sides.
The plan was rejected by Greek Cypriots but accepted by Turkish Cypriots in 2004 referendums, with the result that a divided island joined the European Union the following year.