By Angelos Anastasiou
The mobile telephony and electricity grids in the south and north of the island will be linked by the end of July, as part of confidence-building measures (CBMs) agreed between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders last month, Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry head Fidias Pilides said on Wednesday.
According to Pilides, both these projects were at the final stages of planning.
Speaking to the Cyprus News Agency, Pilides, who also heads the bi-communal technical committee on entrepreneurial, economic and commercial issues, said the issue of mobile phone interoperability is the object of intensive deliberations between provider companies – three Greek Cypriot companies and two Turkish Cypriot ones – so that the remaining technical details, as well as price charging arrangements, are ironed out.
Currently, Greek Cypriot phones do not work in the north – and vice versa – while calls have to go through Turkey.
The technical aspect is easy to solve, Pilides explained, but “all sensitivities must be considered”.
“We live in a divided country, there are certain sensitivities that must be considered,” he said.
“I wouldn’t like to elaborate on this point, what I’m referring to is obvious – they are matters of legality.”
Pilides declined to comment on the issue of the prefix on international calls, saying various options are on the table at this point.
But asked when interoperability may be achieved, he said that once the exact method has been agreed, “it is a matter of days”.
“I would say it shouldn’t take more than a week to agree the pending issues, and implementation could follow almost immediately,” he said.
Meanwhile, on the issue of linking the two electricity grids, Pilides said the principle “has been agreed” and that this is “also a matter of resolving certain technical procedures – not problems – so that it can be implemented”.
Asked whether this could be feasible within July, Pilides said “hopefully, yes”.
Another CBM agreed by the leaders called for a common flea market in the moat opposite the Ledra Palace hotel in Nicosia’s buffer zone. Pilides told the CNA that work on this proceeds gradually, and all relevant permits have been obtained, including one from the Antiquities Department.
The technical committee has also asked the United Nations – which controls the buffer zone – for approval, Pilides added, but news on this CBM should not be expected as soon as developments on mobile telephony and electricity.
Pilides welcomed the responsiveness demonstrated by graduates from both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot universities to internship programmes for youth from both communities who wish to gain work experience in companies of the other community.
Applications for these programmes may be submitted until September 4, Pilides noted.