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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 April, 2003, 15:14 GMT 16:14 UK
Emotion as Cyprus border opens
Turkish Cypriot Mustafa Ahmed becomes first to cross
The first Turkish Cypriots arrived early to cross
Hundreds of Greek and Turkish Cypriots have crossed the island's dividing line for the first time in nearly 30 years, after the easing of border restrictions.

Correspondents reported scenes of excitement and confusion as the first residents went through the Ledra Palace checkpoint in the centre of Nicosia.

The Turkish Cypriots announced on Monday that they were easing the restrictions to build confidence between the divided communities.

Some of those crossing the green line were keen to show their children the sights of the southern part of Nicosia for the first time.

Crowds pass through border
The wall hasn't fallen
Cypriot Government spokesman

"I'm going to get a Cypriot passport so I can get a job in Europe," said one young Turkish Cypriot man before running off to present his ID card to the Greek Cypriot police.

One woman carried candles, hoping to light them in what had once been her local church, in celebration of Orthodox Easter this Sunday.

By lunchtime more than 350 Turkish Cypriots and 140 Greek Cypriots had crossed the line. All must return by the end of the day.

The Greek Cypriot Government has given a cautious welcome to the decision, but said it had been designed to deflect attention from the Turkish Cypriots' "negative attitude" to the peace process.

"The wall hasn't fallen," said a spokesman, in a reference to the end of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

The island has been divided since Turkish troops invaded the north in 1974, following a brief Greek-Cypriot coup backed by the Greek Government.

Thousands of people displaced from their homes have never returned, and earlier this year a high-profile peace push by the United Nations ended in failure.

This is a step towards going back to normal
Serdar Denktash
The Greek-led Cypriot Government announced a series of confidence-building measures after the collapse of peace talks last month.

But while these steps will clearly go some way to ease the tension and the economic imbalance between the two communities, there are no signs that the key political issues of territory and sovereignty are any closer to being resolved, says the BBC's Tabitha Morgan in Cyprus.

The easing of border restrictions comes a week after the Greek Cypriots signed the European Union accession treaty paving the way for EU membership next year.

It is as though they are making matters worse while trying to be helpful,
Turkish Cypriot Kibris newspaper

But EU membership will, in effect, apply only in the internationally-recognised Greek part of Cyprus if the island is not unified in time for formal membership in May 2004.

Serdar Denktash, the deputy Turkish Cypriot prime minister and son of the president, said the easing of restrictions would be a test of whether the two sides could live together.

"This is a unilateral decision passed to build confidence and promote peace," he said.

Greek Cypriots have announced a series of proposals to allow trade between the two sides and to enable Turkish Cypriots to work in Greek part of the island.

The green line is manned by UN peacekeepers.

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