A solution would benefit not only the island, but international interests as well. The island's division is a major obstacle to Turkey's ambition of joining the European Union. This frustrates Washington's strategic aim of bringing closer to the West a country it values as a secular Muslim democracy and NATO ally which borders on Iran, Iraq, and Syria.
The Cyprus problem is also an obstacle to rapprochement between NATO partners Greece and Turkey, despite the remarkable improvement in their bilateral relations in the past decade. And jousting between Ankara and Nicosia has hampered EU-NATO cooperation in trouble spots such as Afghanistan and Kosovo.
There are high expectations that Christofias and Talat will announce a goodwill first step Friday: the opening of a crossing point in Ledra Street, a busy pedestrian thoroughfare in the heart of Nicosia.
Establishing a connection at the core of Europe's last divided capital would be of practical as well as psychological and symbolic importance. It would boost confidence and improve the atmosphere for the difficult negotiations ahead on substantive issues.
Why Cyprus is divided
Cyprus has been split on ethnic lines since Turkey invaded the north in 1974 after a short-lived Greek Cypriot coup engineered by the military junta then ruling Greece. The Turkish Cypriots, who made up 18 percent of the island's population, were left holding 37 percent of the territory. Some 35,000 Turkish troops remain in northern Cyprus, occupying part of an EU member state that Ankara does not recognize.