Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci on Wednesday strongly criticised his ‘foreign minister’ for declaring a tax on food and other supplies sent by the Republic to Greek Cypriot and Maronite communities in the north, publicly exposing a rift with the administration.
In a lengthy statement, Akinci said his request to suspend the decision and hold a meeting to discuss it was ignored.
He accused ‘foreign minister’ Tahsin Ertugruloglu of opening wounds that were difficult to close, adding that making decisions that could affect the Cyprus problem and relations between the two communities without taking his view into account was unacceptable.
Unficyp on Wednesday – the first delivery day since Ertugruloglu made the announcement – could only deliver medical supplies which were unaffected by the ‘tax’, the UN peacekeeping force said.
According to an Unficyp statement, one vehicle carrying the supplies departed for communities in the Karpas at 10.50am.
“Unficyp was obliged to limit today’s delivery to medical aid supplies, following the Turkish Cypriot administration’s unilateral decision to impose taxes and fees on other humanitarian goods,” the statement said. “Unficyp regrets the decision taken by the Turkish Cypriot administration, which it considers to be an unfortunate development.”
Last month, authorities in the north announced that as of October 1 it would charge customs duties on goods – drinking water, foodstuff, petrol – carried by the UN to Greek Cypriots living in the north saying that since the opening of the crossing points in 2003 the people there did not need the supplies and sold them to Turkish Cypriots.
President Nicos Anastasiades said on Wednesday the Turkish Cypriot decision proved it was not being sincere during negotiations in Switzerland in the summer.
“Unfortunately, this is the reality that proves at the same time which of the two parties was ready to really negotiate at Crans Montana to find a solution,” Anastasiades said.
Anastasiades said such measures were illegal and served to spoil the good climate the Greek Cypriot side wanted to cultivate.
The president said the government would deal with the problem without having to pay taxes to an illegal regime.
He said the government was planning to report the matter to the UN Security Council and the EU.
The Turkish Cypriot ‘foreign ministry’ said the UN’s statement was “unfortunate”.
Later on Wednesday Akinci clearly highlighted the rifts within the administration in the north by publicly censuring Ertugruloglu.
The Turkish Cypriot leader said even if the Crans-Montana talks had been unsuccessful, the need to find a mutually acceptable solution was still present and actions that could raise tensions further should be avoided.
“Despite the fact that in reality, the 1975 agreements did not apply after the crossings opened in 2003, the demand for taxes on foodstuffs, as if we have nothing else to do, only serves to worsen the climate,” Akinci said.
He said it was not wrong to seek a new understanding on the matter with the Greek Cypriot side but it wasn’t right to cancel the 1975 agreement with a unilateral decision.
Akinci suggested that such decisions were akin to “shooting ourselves in the foot” at a time when the Greek Cypriot side escalated its “dated approaches, undermining, demeaning and viewing the Turkish Cypriot people as a minority”.
The leader of the Turkish Cypriot Republican Party, Tufan Erhurman, also criticised the ‘foreign minister’ saying he ruined the reputation of Turkish Cypriots by presenting them to the world through a language that was out of date.
The UN’s role of delivering humanitarian assistance to Greek Cypriot and Maronite communities in the northern part of the island was based on a longstanding agreement between the sides known as Vienna III, and provides hundreds of elderly and other vulnerable people with basic supplies on a weekly basis.
At the end of the second phase of the Turkish invasion late in August 1974, about 20,000 Greek and Maronite Cypriots living in villages and townships primarily in the Karpas peninsula in the northeast and in villages west of Kyrenia remained behind the ceasefire line.
According to April 2013 figures only 437 people remain – 328 Greek Cypriots and 109 Maronite Cypriots. These persons are known as the ‘enclaved’.