Cyprus Mail
Cyprus Cyprus Talks

Progress is being made on extra crossing points

The site of the checkpoint at Dherynia

It should take no more than five to seven months to see the opening of the Dherynia crossing, the head of the technical committee for crossing points, Sotos Zacheos said on Monday.
The Lefka crossing in the Morphou area will take longer due to a number of environmental and infrastructural factors, but it will happen, Zacheos told the Cyprus Mail.
Both crossings were agreed by the leaders of the two communities a year ago this month.
But movement on Dherynia was delayed due to months of wrangling between the two sides, who finally reached a deal last October that satisfied their concerns.
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 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 by Turks near the old road in 1996 after separate anti-occupation demos the same week.
In the end, the Turkish side agreed to move the guard post and work can now commence on the 3km of road needed to link the sides. The work is to be put out to tender shortly and will be funded by the EU.
Zacheos described it as a major development. He said the Greek Cypriot side has little to do in the area because in the last four decades, residential developments had sprung up in Dherynia with the accompanying road infrastructure right up to the buffer zone.
“So in our case all we need to do is put in place the infrastructure for the central areas to house the customs and police booths,” he said, adding that it would cost around €300,000 which would be paid for by the government. “In five to seven months everything will be ready,” he said.
At present, residents in Dherynia and surrounding areas have to travel 17 kilometres to the nearest open crossing at Strovilia. When the Dherynia crossing point is opened the distance will be cut to 800 metres.
The crossing at Lefka will take longer however. Zacheos said there were three main issues that were going to take time and money. One is the fact that part of the area comes under the EU’s Natura 2000 protected area as it has indigenous mouflon and 100-year-old pine trees, Zacheos said. “The EU is very sensitive about Natura and there could be some very, very costly penalties. Also our environmentalists are very vocal,” he added.
There is also private property in the area which will have to be acquisitioned. On the Greek Cypriot side, it will also involve a costly 3km of road to lay compared to 1km on the Turkish Cypriot side as the road is now just a dirt track. The entire cost for the Greek Cypriots will be €3m, which will have to be found from the budget, Zacheos said.
However, he said this did not mean the crossing would be postponed or shelved. “There is a lot of work to be done as the terrain is also mountainous and very difficult,” he said. “But there is no reason to delay. The decision has been taken and people are expecting it.” He could not give a timeframe however.
When the leaders agreed in May 2015 to open Dherynia and Lefka, other crossings were bandied about such as Piroi in the Nicosia district, Paphos Gate and Famagusta Gate in the old town, and Kokkina, on the north-west coast of the island. The Cyprus Mail understands however that for the moment no other crossings are being considered due to a reluctance on the part of the Turkish Cypriot side. The Greek Cypriot side did ask whether Kokkiina could be opened for medical emergencies but there was no response.

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