Olive trees in North Cyprus (OOT File)

“Let’s grow together” is the name of the first Bi-communal Olive Festival and autumn fruit fair that will be held this weekend at Ledra Palace and the Fulbright Foundation in Nicosia’s buffer zone.

The aim of the meeting is to celebrate the cooperation between the two parts of the divided island and find solutions to common problems.

The event was first proposed by the Greek and Turkish Cypriot olive oil producers associations, SEKEP and ZEYBİR, through an EU-funded project, Crop Husbandry Technical Assistance, to support  the meeting.

The chairmen of SEKEP and ZEYBİR, Philippos Kameris and İrfan Çelik, said in a joint press conference the event is considered just the first step toward a future fruitful cooperation. They stressed the importance of working together to face common issues affecting the Cypriot olive sector.

Finding new markets, growing new varieties and battling the olive fly were some of the common challenges mentioned by Kameris.  The bi-communal festival and similar initiatives will create a Cypriot identity for local products and foster high-quality olive oil production on the island, said Çelik.

Olive oil is an important element in the diets of both communities but it could be a high-value product for the local economy. The director of the Crop Husbandry project, Christian Harel, said Greek and Turkish Cypriots will share major benefits through such cooperation.

Crop Husbandry director Christian Harel, ZEYBIR chairman Irfan Celik and SEKEP chairman Philippos Kameris

The program will start with a technical meeting tomorrow, November 29, and will be open to the public 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM on Sunday, November 30. Visitors will enjoy fresh, local olive oils and products, and entertainment that will include Cypriot folk music.

The event is seen as important in the history of the small Mediterranean island which has been divided since 1974. The talks for a reunification of the island started long ago but without success. Now a common passion for olive oil could prove to unite people and succeed where politicians have long failed the two communities.

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