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As friendships grow, politics could set peace talks back.
But as Talat and Christofias have discovered in their negotiations, good will is not always enough.
One of the toughest questions is what to do about properties, such as Papayannis’ family house, which were abandoned after 1974 or during the years of inter-communal violence that preceded the island’s division. And questions linger too about whether and under what terms settlers from Turkey, such as Mexmet, would be allowed to stay in a reunified Cyprus.
Since 2003, it has been possible to travel between Cyprus’ Greek and Turkish sides. Each week, according to U.N. statistics, about 80,000 people cross the U.N.-administered “green line,” half traveling in each direction. Most Turkish Cypriots go to shop or to find work on the Greek side, while Greeks Cypriots like Papayannis often travel to visit their old homes.
But friendships like the one between Papayannis and Mexmet — built slowly over the years — are rare, especially among younger Cypriots reared on a history of mistrust and hatred.
A recent study by the Center for European Policy Studies in Brussels co-authored by Kaymak showed that young people on both sides are less likely to vote for a reunification plan than their parents.
“I’m disappointed in the nationalism of many of the Greeks I meet — even the people on the left, like me, who say they believe in us living together,” Mexmet said.
But Papayiannis and Mexmet are trying to show their children that friendships can be built across Cyprus’ divides, even if a political solution seems distant.
“We are friends,” said Mexmet, patting Papayannis on the back.
Click here for GlobalPost's coverage of divided cities, including Nicosia, Cyprus.