Part of this blog's occasional detour from high finance and high tech to take a peek at the motherland (!)...
What is this? Last Thursday, in the middle of the night, the Greek Cypriots bulldozed the barrier on Ledra Street.
Ledra Street was the old commercial heart of Nicosia until 1974 when the city was divided after the Turkish invasion. After the division, Ledra Street slowly faded in commercial importance as the business sector moved south, outside the Venetian walls into the "new city".
The Ledra Street barrier has been there since the mid 1960s and is the most imposing and visible sign of Nicosia's division. It is a Greek Cypriot army guard post that sees into the UN buffer zone of abandoned, collapsing buildings. On the other side, is the Turkish/Turkish Cypriot guard post.
The barrier was bulldozed in the middle of the night without warning (presumably to preempt any potential opposition).
What does it mean?
Since 2003, there have been some crossing points open across the Green Line that divides Cyprus so this does not really change the ability to move across the city, but none of the current crossing points are in the center of the city.
An open, reunited Ledra Street in the heart of Nicosia would be a much more tangible sign of reunification than the somewhat out-of-the-way checkpoints that are only really accessible by car.
The (Greek) Cypriot government quite correctly insists that the Turkish soldiers leave the area, that the area is swept for mines and that the crumbling buildings are shored up before opening the passageway to pedestrians.
So, for now, this is much more a symbolic move than anything else, but it is nonetheless a positive step forward...