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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 March 2008, 12:08 GMT
Cyprus may hold early peace talks
Demetris Christofias speaking at campaign headquarters in Nicosia
Mr Christofias, a left-winger, was elected on 24 February
The new President of Cyprus, Demetris Christofias, says he expects to meet the Turkish Cypriot leader between 17 and 24 March to revive peace talks.

Mr Christofias said earlier that he had asked the United Nations to arrange a meeting with Mehmet Ali Talat.

Both leaders have voiced optimism that they can make progress towards reunification of the island.

Decades of diplomatic efforts have failed to reunite the ethnic Greek and Turkish communities.

Last month, Mr Talat congratulated Mr Christofias on his election triumph and said: "I believe that it won't be a surprise if we solve the problem by the end of 2008".

Mr Talat also called on Mr Christofias, a left-wing leader, to resume negotiations as soon as possible.

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The Greek and Turkish Cypriots have been divided since 1974, when Turkey sent troops into the north, after a coup by Greek Cypriots who wanted union with Greece.

A British diplomat said there was a "unique opportunity" in Cyprus now.

"For the first time we have two people, old comrades on the left, who want to solve the problem. If the Greek Cypriots got a better offer on the property they lost in the north and a quicker withdrawal of Turkish troops, there could be the basis of a deal."

The diplomat suggested that there was a chance of the blocked-off Ledra Street in the centre of Nicosia, marking the Green Line between the two sides, being opened soon. That would be, he said, "like the Berlin Wall falling".

Greek Cypriots rejected a UN peace plan in a referendum in 2004, while Turkish Cypriots accepted it.

The BBC's Tabitha Morgan in Cyprus says significant issues that have scuppered all previous diplomatic initiatives remain to be tackled. These include the Turkish troop presence in the north of the island.

The island's partition has long stood as an obstacle to Turkey's bid to join the EU, and remains a source of contention between Nato allies Turkey and Greece.

The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is only recognised by Turkey.

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