Greek Cypriots finish demolishing symbolic wall

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NICOSIA, Cyprus -- Greek Cypriots today finished demolishing a wall that has for decades split Europe's last divided capital in two, in a dramatic move which officials hope may kick-start reconciliation moves.

The move to demolish the wall on Ledra Street, which runs through the heart of Nicosia, started under cover of darkness last night, and was not publicised earlier in the day. It followed the Turkish Cypriot dismantling of a disputed elevated walkway in January, which was at the centre of a dispute with the Greek Cypriots over the opening of a new crossing point...

The 13-foot high concrete wall was seen as the strongest symbol of the Mediterranean island's 32-year-old partition into a Green Cypriot south and a Turkish Cypriot north.

The spot is a bizarre time warp of long abandoned, bullet-pocked and crumbling buildings, some of them once elegant stone-built mansions whose only inhabitants today are stray cats and rats...

Communication between Greek and Turkish Cypriots was heavily restricted until 2003, when the Turkish Cypriot authorities unexpectedly opened several checkpoints along the island’s 185km long dividing line.

Ledra Street has been blocked since 1964. The wall was put up after intercommunal violence flared in 1963, just three years after Cyprus secured independence from Britain.

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