Sat, Mar 10, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Greek Cypriots dismantle wall dividing capital

AP , NICOSIA

Cypriots are seen from the windows of a building as they watch a bulldozer remove sections of a wall at the UN buffer zone that divides the Greek and Turkish Cypriot controlled areas on the Ledra main street in the divided capital, Nicosia, early yesterday.

PHOTO: AP

Greek Cypriots demolished a wall along the boundary that splits Europe's last divided capital, Nicosia, early yesterday.

"Tonight, we demolished a checkpoint on our side," Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos told reporters in Brussels. "Now we will see whether Turkey's troops will withdraw so that the passage will be opened or not"

A bulldozer started dismantling the wall late on Thursday in an unannounced move Papadopoulos said was planned for more than 15 days.

Dozens of people watched as two bulldozers went to work behind a screen.

"This is a first positive step as a sign of goodwill on behalf of our side," government spokesman Christodoulos Pashiardis said.

Earlier this year, Turkish Cypriots dismantled a footbridge in the area, angering Greek Cypriots and frustrating plans for a new crossing in the heart of the island capital.

Construction of the bridge in late 2005 prompted Greek Cypriots to withdraw support for plans to reopen Ledra Street as an avenue cutting across the buffer zone that has separated the island since the Turkish invasion in 1974.

Pashiardis said more had to be done before the crossing could open.

"With the removal of the wall the issue is not resolved ... it does not automatically mean that Ledra Street opens," Pashiardis said.

The wall cuts across Ledra Street just ahead of the buffer zone that divides the two sides.

Running through the heart of the city's tourist area, the street is seen as the strongest symbol of the island's 32-year partition.

"As long as Turkish occupying army remains at specific crossing point we cannot speak of opening Ledra Street," Pashiardis said.

Cyprus remains divided into a Greek Cypriot south -- representing the internationally recognized government -- and Turkish Cypriot north, where Turkey maintains some 40,000 troops.

Efforts to reunify the island have been effectively frozen since 2004, when Greek Cypriots rejected a UN reunification blueprint accepted by Turkish Cypriots in a referendum.

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