The opening of the Dherynia crossing moved a step closer on Wednesday after the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) announced the signing of the contract for road works for the northern end of the project.
Completion of the work will take around five months, the UNDP said.
“Road works under this contract will cover only the section of the road in the northern part of Cyprus,” it stressed.
The project is being fully funded by the European Union at a cost of around €938,000.
The overall length of the road to be improved is 2,750 metres. This includes 7.0 metres for the road pavement and 2.0 metres for road shoulders on both sides – one metre on each side.
Ditches will be constructed where required on both sides of the road for rain water conveyance. Box culverts will be constructed at locations identified on the project. Road signs and road markings will be placed for traffic management and safety, the UNDP said.
Dherynia, in the Famagusta area, is one of two crossing slated to be opened under a deal between the two leaders reached in May 2015. The other is at Lefka-Aplici in the Morphou district. The UNDP said the tender for the latter crossing had been relaunched and will close on Friday this week. There, the overall length of the road to be improved is 980 metres.
Following the announcement by the Leaders on 28 May 2015, the Technical Committee on Crossings immediately began work and the European Union, amended the Green Line Regulation to add the new crossings to the list of official transit points. There are currently seven.
A Cambodian demining team deployed through inter-mission cooperation from the neighbouring UN mission in Lebanon, UNIFIL, carried out mine clearance activities in support of the opening of both crossings from 28 September to 26 November 2015. With both crossing sites declared mine-free, the roadworks could go ahead.
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 after separate anti-occupation demos within days of reach other 20 years ago this week.
In the end, the Turkish side agreed to move the guard post.
The Greek Cypriot side has little work to do on the Dherynia crossing other than to install police and customs booths, which the government will fund at a cost of around €300,000.
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 time and money. Part of the area comes under the EU’s Natura 2000 protected area as it has indigenous mouflon and 100-year-old pine trees.
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 state budget.