By Jean Christou
After months of wrangling, an agreement was reached between both sides on Wednesday that will pave the way for the opening of the checkpoint at Dherynia, the head of the technical committee for crossing points said.
Both sides have been at odds over the opening. The Greek Cypriot side wanted to use the existing road to Varosha but the Turkish side cited security issues, and wanted a new road built away from a Turkish army outpost.
The Turkish Cypriot side had therefore proposed that instead of using the existing road, they would re-route, bypassing the military zone there. The Greek Cypriots countered that would take longer, cost more money and possibly require appropriations of private land. By contrast, the old road going straight to Famagusta would simply need a fresh layer of asphalt and possible widening.
Another concern of the Turkish Cypriots was that the area might become a shrine to Greek Cypriots Tassos Isaac and Solomos Solomou, both murdered near the old road in 1996 after anti-occupation demos. Reports last month said the Turkish Cypriot leadership had been trying to allay the concerns of the military in the north, particularly after the Greek Cypriots proposed a slight diversion on the old road to avoid passing directly by the Turkish army camp.
In the end it was decided to use the old road and move the army outpost.
“We had a meeting with the Turkish Cypriot representatives who told us there had been a political decision to accept our proposal for using the old Famagusta road and moving the [Turkish] guard post,” Zacheos told the Cyprus Mail after Wednesday’s meeting.
Now that the agreement has been reached, it added, work would begin on fixing and widening the road but Zacheos cautioned that there was no fixed timetable either as far as starting work or of opening the crossing at the moment as it was too early.
A lot of preliminary technical work needed to be done first, he said. Technical experts from both sides would be drafted in to do the work, he added. “The road has not been used for 40 years and they will need to clear all of the debris and maybe even trees,” said Zacheos.
‘The good thing is that in the case of all of the crossing points, clearing minefields was always an issue but in this area the UN already carried out a survey… there has been a lot of back and forth on this… and they confirmed that the minefields are inactive,” Zacheos said. “This is a positive development.”
However, he added, the UN would be carrying out a second survey “just to be one hundred per cent sure” so that the crossing can be opened “as quickly and easily as possible”.
At present, residents in Dherynia and surrounding areas have to travel 17 kilometres to the nearest open check point at Strovilia.
If the Dherynia crossing point opened the distance would be cut to 800 metres.
The opening of two new crossings – one in Dherynia, in the east, and one in Lefka in the west – was decided by the leaders of the two communities on May 28, as part of confidence-building measures, parallel to the core reunification talks. The leaders also cited a number of other proposed crossing points. There are seven crossing points currently in place and operational.
By Jean Christou