By George Psyllides
The Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders agreed on Thursday to open two new crossings linking their estranged communities, and other confidence building measures (CBMs), as they underlined their shared will and determination to reach a comprehensive settlement.
President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci agreed to open two new crossings, one in Lefka in the west, and one in Dherynia, in the east.
These will be added to the seven crossings currently in place.
“In addition, they referred a number of other proposed crossing points for further examination to the committee on crossings,” United Nations Special Adviser Espen Barth Eide told reporters following the leaders’ meeting on Thursday.
This was in line with their pledge to work on CBMs to benefit the two communities, parallel to talks on the substantive issues of the Cyprus problem.
“Today, the Greek Cypriot leader, Mr. Nicos Anastasiades, and the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mr. Mustafa Akıncı, took the next steps towards fulfilling their joint vision for a united federal Cyprus,” Eide said. “Their constructive dialogue included a range of core issues that go to the very heart of the Cyprus question.”
The UN official later tweeted that he was very encouraged by the leaders’ meeting.
“Good progress on substance and CBMs,” he said.
Eide also announced an agreement to interconnect electricity grids “and to start taking the practical steps towards this goal.”
The same goes for mobile phone interoperability.
At present mobile phone users on both sides of the divide have to go via an international code — through Turkey — to talk to each other.
“The two leaders want this issue to be solved,” Eide said. “The leaders will therefore instruct the technical committee on economic and commercial matters, as well as their respective experts, to discuss and propose how this important issue can be solved.”
Work will also commence to prevent radio frequency interferences.
A fifth CBM concerns the establishment of a committee on gender equality.
“The leaders agreed that the Cyprus issue can only be properly solved with due understanding of the perspectives of both women and men,” Eide said.
The decisions were made during the second meeting between the two leaders as part of reunification talks that resumed on May 15, after a seven month hiatus.
Their next meetings are scheduled for June 17 and 29, and July 10 and 27.
On his return to the presidential palace, Anastasiades said it was a “creative meeting” in a bid to achieve a solution that would live up to the expectations of Greek and Turkish Cypriots.
Akinci said there was progress in the talks but there was still a long way to go.
The Turkish Cypriot leader said they had a good start, and it was a good second meeting.
“Our hope is to continue this way and our biggest desire is to achieve a good result,” he said.