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Meeting Thursday to discuss bicommunal mobile telephony

Competent authorities are to meet on Thursday to discuss where things stand regarding mobile phone interoperability across the island, one of the confidence-building measures agreed by the two leaders in 2015.

The meeting was scheduled after President Nicos Anastasiades announced last week after a meeting with Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci they would meet again on November 12 if there was progress on issues relating to mobile telephone use.

Since 2015, when linking of mobile telephony in the south and north of the island was decided there has not been any concrete progress. Currently, Greek Cypriot mobile phone sim cards do not work in the north – and vice versa – while calls have to go through Turkey. The goal was for phones to work on both sides without having to pay international rates.

Anastasiades said the Turkish Cypriot leader had informed him that finding a solution would be possible. A source told the Cyprus News Agency (CNA) that the Turkish Cypriot leader has given no clue as to what could change to facilitate an agreement on the matter.

A number of ideas have already been discussed in the past but no solution was found. The same source said that any solution must be in line with the existing legal framework and EU legislation.

Another source told the Cyprus Mail there is nothing new since the last round of consultations between the two sides some two years ago.

“We expect to hear what it will be announced at the meeting,” the source said.

The same source said that during consultations in the past the Greek Cypriot side had proposed the introduction of Dual-International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) sim cards but the idea was rejected by the Turkish Cypriots.

This technology, the source said, is already being used by a small mobile telephony provider based in the government-controlled areas that signed a deal with a big European telecommunications company so that its subscribers would get signal coverage when abroad. Due to that technology, that company’s sim cards operate also in the north, the source said, as whenever one of its subscribers is abroad, or in the north, his or her sim card switches to the other European telecommunications company’s network.

An UN source told CNA that the issue of promoting confidence building measures for mobile telephony has been the subject of contacts between the United Nations and the EU in recent months in Brussels.

There seems to be a renewed political will on both sides of the island to promote and implement this confidence-building measure, the same source said, noting that any technical and legal obstacles can be overcome with the necessary political will.

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