- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 26, 2003

NICOSIA, Cyprus Suddenly, without warning, efforts to bring about the unity of Cyprus that has defied international diplomacy for 29 years, have been hijacked by the island's people.
Hundreds of Greek Cypriots, frustrated by long lines of people waiting to visit the island's Turkish Cypriot north for the first time in 30 years, broke through chains of U.N. peacekeepers at one border point yesterday.
Witnesses said a few scuffles and fistfights broke out at the Ledra palace crossing as impatient crowds lined up at the start of a four-day Orthodox Easter break to see former homes and other places in the north that had been off-limits for three decades.
The U.N. force eventually regained a measure of control and began letting Greek Cypriots through to the northern checkpoint in groups of around 100.
"It is madness. The biggest public holiday and they let everyone through," one peacekeeper on the Turkish side said.
The Turkish Cypriot decision Wednesday to allow, at least temporarily, free movement across the line dividing this Mediterranean island has given a new dimension to the "Cyprus problem."
"A basis on which the reunification of the island will be built was set by the people," wrote the Greek Cypriot daily Alithia.
While praising the move that sent crowds literally surging in both directions across the demarcation line, diplomats and other observers remained cautious.
Major hurdles still remain and the leaders of the Greek and Turkish communities have opposing views on the steps to be taken now.
All agree, however, that efforts should be made to maintain the momentum of the first significant event on the island since the seizure of its northern part by the Turkish army in 1974 and the subsequent creation of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, ostracized by the international community.
While every day the numbers of Greek Cypriots heading north and Turkish Cypriots going south for the allowed one-day trips are growing, the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government is trying to limit the public relations aspect of the measure initiated by the Turkish side.
"We consider that this is not the solution to the Cyprus problem. There is a long way ahead," said Kypros Chrisostomides, spokesman for the government on the Greek side of the barricades.
The government was unquestionably unprepared for the Turkish side's sudden, successful move. It appealed to the Greek Cypriots not to show their passports to the Turkish Cypriot police, which it considers to be illegal.
But thousands ignored the call and headed to the long-forbidden Turkish sector, where an estimated 160,000 Greek Cypriots have left their homes and property.
Some diplomats claim that the development was an effort by Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to seize the initiative after the failure of recent talks under U.N. auspices. Others said that Mr. Denktash genuinely wants to test whether the two sides can trust each other and live together.
To Greek Cypriot analyst Sofronis Sofroniou, "whatever the motives might be, the development will create a better atmosphere unless there is a provocation."

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