THE prospects for lasting peace in Cyprus between the Greek and Turkish communities improved considerably yesterday when their respective leaders announced an agreement to start face-to-face talks on September 3.
These talks have been carefully prepared since Demetris Christofias won the Greek sector's presidential election last March, replacing President Papdopoulos who had consistently refused to countenance negotiations with the Turkish leader Mehmet Ali Taha. Christofias, nominally a Communist, had campaigned on a promise to open peace talks and won convincingly enough to feel confident in his backing of the Greek community. For his part Mehmet Ali Talat has always wanted to reach an agreement.
Since March working groups drawn from both communities have been discussing the issues between them and how they might be resolved. The fact that the leaders have agreed to meet from September suggests that satisfactory progress has been made in these working groups. None the less there are certain to be problems that will take considerable time and mutual understanding to settle. For instance, there are some 40'000 Turkish people in Northern Cyprus, many of whom followed behind their army in its 1974 invasion and occupied land and property previously owned by Greek Cypriots who still believe that they should be compensated for their losses.
One ever-present danger in Cypriot politics is that the home countries, Greece and Turkey, will intervene - possibly to pursue other disagreements on a different level. This danger will increase if either side in Cyprus needs financial support to meet the terms of a peace agreement.