Symbolic wall taken down by Greek Cypriots

GREEK Cypriots yesterday demolished a wall along the boundary that for decades has split Europe’s last divided capital, in a dramatic gesture officials hope will kick-start reconciliation on the east Mediterranean island.

The four-metre-high concrete wall that stretched along the breadth of Ledra Street, which runs through the heart of the Nicosia’s tourist area, has long been seen as the strongest symbol of the island’s 32-year partition into a Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish Cypriot north.

A bulldozer began dismantling the wall late on Thursday night in an unannounced move that Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos said had been planned more than two weeks ago.

Dozens of people gathered to witness the event, with some taking pieces of the wall as mementoes.

Rasit Pertev, under-secretary of the Turkish Cypriot president’s office, described the event as “historic”, and said it had come as a surprise to Turkish Cypriot officials, Turkey’s Anatolia news agency said.

The Greek Cypriot foreign minister called on Turkey to reciprocate by removing troops it has stationed in the area.

“We are expecting, after this unilateral decision, a decision that will remove the Turkish army from the area,” Giorgos Lillikas said.

Cyprus has been split since a 1974 Turkish invasion sparked by an abortive coup attempting to unite the island with Greece.

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