Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci on Thursday toured the pedestrian shopping area on the northern side of the shuttered Ledra Street crossing point and spoke with retailers affected by the closure, which was extended earlier in the day pending a new review next Monday.
He said hoped the decision would be reversed on Monday but he did not seem optimistic.
“The closure of the barricades on the Cypriot side is not a decision related to the coronavirus, but is due to different reasons,” Akinci said, adding that it was not supported by the UN or the EU.
Akinci has been vocal in his opposition to the closure of the four crossings unilaterally announced by the Greek Cypriot side last week ostensibly to prevent any potential spread of the coronavirus.
People from both sides who utilised Ledra Street due to its central location and pedestrianisation, have been particularly affected as have Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot shopkeepers and cafes.
Akinci told the retailers he would be sending a letter to the UN Secretary-General about the closure of the four crossings and would “keep in touch” with the EU.
He would also continue to discuss with the Greek Cypriot side and continue explain through diplomatic means and dialogue the “mistake of this decision”.
He reminded shopkeepers that he was also discussing the matter with UN Special Representative in Cyprus Elizabeth Spehar, with whom he met on Wednesday evening. Akinci and President Nicos Anastasiades sparred through the media later in the day after a phone call in the morning.
Early Thursday Unficyp issued a statement expressing its concern over the closure and said it was imperative the two sides coordinated closely on the issues related to the corona virus.
“Coronavirus is an issue facing the whole world,” Akinci said on Thursday. He said the Turkish Cypriot side had not gone and acted unilaterally in the same way as the Greek Cypriots but were still taking measures.
“The closure of the crossings is a wrong measure,” he said. “Measures should be taken at air and sea entrances to the island.” He also said the bicommunal technical committee was adequate to deal with the corona crisis. Unficyp too said the committee should be “utilised to the fullest”.
The Turkish Cypriot leader referred to his phone call with Anastasiades on Wednesday about the influx of migrants due to the situation on the Greek-Turkish border where the president had suggested Turkey was deliberately sending migrants to Cyprus to change the demographic.
Akinci said these people did not go through the crossings but through gaps in the 180km-long buffer zone.