Athienou mayor Kyriakou Kareklas sent a letter to president Nicos Anastasiades on Tuesday formally requesting the opening of a crossing at Pyroi, an issue the municipality has for years been pushing for.
In light of efforts for the resumption of talks, in his letter, Kareklas asks that Anastasiades refrains from signing off on any further confidence-building measures (CBMs) unless opening a Pyroi checkpoint is listed among them.
The Athienou mayor acknowledged that the issue was brought up by the president during his informal meeting with Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci on August 9.
In statements after the meeting Anastasiades said that the opening was discussed as a CBM “that will foster a climate of confidence among the two sides, and one that concerns the essence of the problem between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, which is not simply symbolic.”
In his letter, Kareklas said that the Athienou municipality has been suffering the consequences of the division for 45 years, particularly in terms of the time required to commute to Nicosia, which has multifaceted consequences.
Currently, Athienou residents require between 45 minutes to an hour to reach Nicosia, whereas a checkpoint would significantly cut travel time to 10 minutes.
The extended travel time means vehicles are doing more mileage and thus suffer more wear and tear, Karkelas noted, adding that the current situation also forces students to rent accommodation in Nicosia, whereas they could be living at home and cutting costs.
Kareklas also highlighted that the current distance is detrimental in cases of emergency, as an ambulance could reach the Nicosia general hospital in just 10 minutes.
Though “it is a known fact that the Turkish Cypriot side is not particularly interested in the opening,” Kareklas said, it would nevertheless also benefit Turkish Cypriot communities travelling to the government-controlled areas.
“Though the Turkish Cypriot side cites military reasons and does not consent to a discussion of the matter, there are technical solutions for the opening of a checkpoint, which do not affect the Turkish military infrastructure in any way,” Kareklas said.
In February, Kareklas had discussed the issue with Akinci and chief negotiator Andreas Mavroyiannis at a bicommunal event hosted by the Slovak embassy at Ledra Palace hotel in the buffer zone.
The Greek Cypriot side will not agree to the opening of other crossings unless that of Pyroi is on that list, Mavroyiannis told Kareklas.