Millennium Post

After 8 years, new border crossings open in split Cyprus

Dherynia: Cypriot officials opened two new border crossings Monday for the first time in eight years, the latest push for peace by the two sides after UN-backed talks collapsed last year.

Dozens of people from the island's Greek Cypriot south streamed across the eastern Dherynia border post, walking past United Nations peacekeepers into the breakaway Turkish-backed north.

At the same time, the Lefka or Aplici crossing opened in the northwest of the eastern Mediterranean island.

Ahead of the Dherynia crossing reopening, soldiers removed barriers wrapped in rusty barbed wire and a small group of riot police stood by.

But despite arguments breaking out among onlookers in the run-up to the midday (1000 GMT) opening, the crowd passed peacefully through the border.

The latest move was welcomed by Elizabeth Spehar, UN special representative and head of the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus.

"Today is good day for Cyprus," she said in a statement.

"These crossing points will play an important role in helping to increase people to people contacts, contributing to build much needed trust and confidence between the communities on the island." The development is also seen as a vital step to reviving peace negotiations, which collapsed in acrimony in July last year.

"It's another asset to the peace talks," said Chris Charalambous, who was just 18 when war broke out in 1974.

Cyprus has been divided along ethnic lines since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third in response to a coup sponsored by the military junta then in power in Athens seeking to unite the island with Greece.

For the first time since fleeing the conflict Charalambous was looking forward to seeing his house, which he said lies in a Turkish Cypriot military zone. "I'm just going to walk down and then I walk back, I don't know if I can stand spending time in the north," he said.

Cyprus has been divided for more than four decades and the two communities lived isolated from one another until Turkish Cypriot authorities cleared the way for the free movement of people in 2003.

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