Greek Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou arrived in Cyprus yesterday and announced what he called a crusade to focus the world's attention on the plight of the island, partitioned since a Turkish invasion in 1974.
Cypriot President Spyros Kyprianou, government and church officials, diplomats and tens of thousands of flag-waving Greek Cypriots were at the airport in this southern Cyprus town to welcome Papandreou, the first Greek prime minister to visit Cyprus since it won its independence from Britain 22 years ago.
In his welcoming speech, Kyprianou said Papandreou's visit was "an emotional and historic moment under these tragic conditions." He was referring to the divided state of the island and the failure of talks over the years between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots to produce any tangible results toward a solution.
"The Cyprus struggle is my struggle, too," Papandreou responded. "It is said that the Cyprus problem has been forgotten by the majority of the mainland Greeks, but this is not true. We have started a crusade for Cyprus and shall continue it to internationalize the problem."
His talks with Kyprianou and other Greek Cypriot leaders are expected to concentrate on the possibility of taking the dispute to an international conference under U.N. auspices.
Fifteen percent of the island's 650,000 inhabitants are ethnic Turks. About 80 percent are ethnic Greeks.
The self-proclaimed Turkish Cypriot Federated State was declared after 40,000 troops from Turkey invaded and occupied the northern part of the island in 1974.