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Oil for peace: Cypriots turn to commerce to bridge Greek-Turkish divide

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Colive Oil Cyprus olive groves
Colive Oil Cyprus olive groves   -   Copyright  EURONEWS
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Two entrepreneurs in Cyprus are joining forces to bridge the island's Greek-Turkish divide. The pair want to use commerce to move the peace process forward -- but bureaucracy still stands in their way.

They call it "oil for peace."

It is the joint project of a Greek-Cypriot and a Turkish-Cypriot, two friends who met in London in the course of their studies.

Putting all political rivalry aside, they decided to join forces for the common good.

The start-up they co-founded is called Coliveoil and it sells oil from both sides of Cyprus.

Alexandros Philippides, one of its co-founders, explains:

"Coliveoil is trying to promote the peace process in Cyprus through a common goal that we have, a common staple that has been shared by the two communities, which is olive oil."

Bureaucratic obstacles

In theory, bi-communal projects are supported by Cypriot authorities but the truth is that there are many obstacles to overcome.

There is no legal framework for such companies, so Coliveoil is split into two legal entities. The one in the north sells the oil to the one in the south; from there it's exported to the European Union.

"Our business model is we buy 50 percent of our olives from the northern farms, 50 percent from the southern farms," says Hasan Siber, Coliveoil's other co-founder. "And then we donate 10 percent of the profits back. Our operations are based on bi-communality and also the profits are donated back to the communities."

The company is based in the buffer zone of Nicosia, Europe's last divided capital. Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when the Turkish army invaded the island and occupied the northern part.

People working for Coliveoil say they feel they are an active part of the peace process.