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Turkish Cypriot tax on humanitarian supplies racist, government says (Updated)

File photo of Unficyp soldiers delivering food to Greek Cypriots in Karpasia

The breakaway Turkish Cypriot state’s decision to tax food and other supplies sent by the Republic to Greek Cypriot and Maronite communities in the north is “racist”, government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said on Thursday, adding that the United Nations could do more on the matter.

Unficyp on Wednesday – the first delivery day since Turkish Cypriot ‘foreign minister’ Tahsin Ertugruloglu announced the intention – could only deliver medical supplies to people living in the Karpas.

Christodoulides said the government’s priority was to ensure the unobstructed supply of aid to the so-called enclaved.

The spokesman said there were ways of continuing the supply so that the lives of the people would not be affected “by this racist, it’s a racist decision, you know, even in war zones the issue of humanitarian aid is not disputed by anybody.”

Christodoulides said the UN could have been more dynamic in their reaction.

On Wednesday, Unficyp said it “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. Unficyp regrets the decision taken by the Turkish Cypriot administration, which it considers to be an unfortunate development.”

It said its role of delivering humanitarian assistance 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.”

“There is a solution, it is the implementation of Vienna III and there is no other choice for the occupation regime,” Christodoulides said.

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’.

Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci made public his disagreement with Ertugruloglu.

He accused him 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.

“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.

Ertugruloglu had suggested that some of the supplies were sold by the Greek Cypriots.

The ‘mayor’ of Rizokarpaso Suphi Coskun, said the locals were very annoyed by the accusation that the inhabitants bought cheap food from the Greek Cypriots from the humanitarian aid.

In statements to Havadis newspaper, Coskun criticised the fact that the local inhabitants were presented as “hungry people who wait to buy [this humanitarian aid] on the cheap”.

“Let no one present us as people who need the aid received by the Greek Cypriots to live. Let them go elsewhere to do their politics. They should not insult us. […] The politicians of both sides should leave us alone. Unfortunately, politicians coming from the Greek Cypriot side also try to sow the seeds of separatism. There are Greek Cypriot politicians who also behave like Mr Tahsin. I am not discriminating. I am making this call on both sides…”

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