Greek Cypriots aim to patch up relations with Britain
Greek Cypriot leader Demetris Christofias flew to Britain on Wednesday in a bid to improve rocky relations with its fellow EU member state.
"I believe the result of this visit will be positive for Greek Cypriots and positive for relations between the United Kingdom and the Greek Cypriots," Christofias told reporters before his departure.
"I know there has been friction and conflict but we will try to resolve these problems through permanent and continued dialogue," he added.
Christofias said the agenda for his talks with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Thursday would include the Cyprus problem, Turkey's EU accession and bolstering bilateral relations.
The presence of sovereign British bases on the island where 10,000 troops and dependents are stationed is another sensitive issue.
Christofias himself once described Britain as Greek Cypriots' "bad demon" due to a popular perception that London works against the interests of Greek Cypriots.
It is his first official trip to London since being elected in February on a platform of reconciliation and reunification.
The communist leader visited London for a party visit in early April and had been due to meet Brown on the sidelines but cut short his trip amid a row with the Turkish Cypriots over a new crossing through the U.N.-patrolled buffer zone that divides the island.
Relations between Greek Cypriots and Britain hit a new low during the administration of his hardline predecessor Tassos Papadopoulos.
In 2006, Papadopoulos refused to meet Britain’s then Foreign Minister Jack Straw who insisted on meeting Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat at his offices in the northern sector of the island's divided capital.
Greek Cypriots argued that the meeting granted some kind of official status to the Turkish Cypriots in the north.
The first visit to the Greek side of the island in a decade by a British foreign minister was marred by Greek Cypriot protests urging Straw to "go home".
Following that fiasco, the British and Greek Cypriot governments agreed to a "constructive dialogue" that would help mend diplomatic fences.
But this began to fall apart last October when Greek Cypriots pulled out of a joint forum with Britain in retaliation for a partnership deal London signed with Ankara that envisaged high-level contacts with the Turkish Cypriots.
The forum was part of a series of measures aimed at improving ties after relations slumped in 2004 when Greek Cypriots rejected a U.N. reunification plan that was approved by Turkish Cypriots.
Britain fully backs a new push for peace triggered by the election of Christofias who will meet Talat again later this month to review the progress made so far.