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ast the tangles of barbed wire, crumbling bullet-pocked buildings, and signs warning “no photography, no litter” within the United Nations-administered buffer zone that divides the Cypriot capital Nicosia, there is a clearing. It’s along Markou Drakou Street, past the Ledras Palace hotel, just before the border control for the self-declared Turkish Republic of North Cyprus. The UN barracks (presumably filled with bored peacekeepers) is on one side of the street, then further up on the other side, right in the middle of the no-man’s land, there is a brightly painted two-storey building. It’s called the Home for Cooperation.
On its Facebook page, the facility describes itself as “a shared space for inter-communal cooperation and dialogue”. It was established 15 years ago, just after the opening up of the border between the two sides of Cyprus. Its centrepiece is a cafe that sells beer, iced coffee and some snacks. There are classrooms and conference centres, on the ground floor and upstairs, that offer both Turkish and Greek language classes, African drumming workshops, and “street food” nights.