Jubilation as street that symbolised a divided Cyprus is reopened

The ceremonial opening of a Nicosia shopping street, first divided by barricades 50 years ago, was supposed to bolster hopes that a lasting solution to the Cyprus problem may be within reach. That dream lasted just 12 hours as a spat about policing erupted last night, forcing Ledra Street to close again.

In 1958, Turkish Cypriot residents erected the first barricades across Ledra Street, two years before independence from British rule. The division became permanent in 1964 after outbreaks of fighting between Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities, battling for mastery of the island. Ten years later Turkey invaded northern Cyprus, and the partition that had begun at Ledra Street spread to the whole island. But while the subsequent decades have yet to bring final agreement on Cyprus's political destiny, more than 30 years of peace – and the rampant prosperity of the south – have done much to dissolve the ethnic hatreds that once beset it.

Yesterday's opening took place in a carnival atmosphere, accompanied by the release of hundreds of coloured balloons. Both Greek and Turkish Cypriots participated in removing the barricades, and then members of both communities strolled around the zones long closed to them.

Ledra Street became the sixth point at which people can cross between north and south, though they must still show identification when doing so. But of all obstacles overcome so far, it was the most symbolic.

"By opening this street, we hope the road to a solution to the Cyprus problem will also open," said George Iacovou, an aide to the Greek Cypriot President, Demetris Christofias. Ozdil Nami, an aide to the Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, said: "This is a historic event. A small step, but a very important step."

But it was a case of one step forward and two steps back. The presence of Turkish Cypriot police in the disputed UN-controlled no-man's-land led to the barriers abruptly coming down again. "We managed to turn the world's attention on us today and hours later we've managed to mess things up," said Valentina Sodocleous, one of the protesters at the closed crossing told Associated Press last night.

Hopes of reaching a settlement on the divided island had been raised after the election of Mr Christofias as President of the internationally recognised Greek Cyprus, committed to finding a solution to Europe's most enduring territorial dispute.

A solution seemed at hand in 2004 when Kofi Annan, who was UN secretary general, sponsored a plan to reunify the island by means of a referendum, prior to Cyprus joining the EU. But Greek Cypriots turned down the plan and Cyprus joined the EU with its divisions intact.

Ledra Street runs through the medieval heart of Nicosia and across the "green line" that has been patrolled by the UN since 1974. The Greek part of the island has prospered, its affluence reflected in the office towers and expensive shops. The self-declared Turkish Republic of North Cyprus, which is only recognised by Ankara, has failed to boom and the markets and small shops reflect the traditional face of the city.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before