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Reopening of crossings ‘being exploited politically’ in the north, spokesman says

The Ledra Palace crossing. Photo: CNA

The issue of reopening checkpoints is being exploited by the north as a political decision due to upcoming elections, government spokesman Kyriacos Kousios said on Thursday as Turkish Cypriot ‘deputy prime minister’ Kudret Ozersay announced crossings could open on July 1.

Speaking to the Cyprus News Agency, Kousios said President Nicos Anastasiades was seriously concerned over the situation and was expected to make a decision on the matter in the next few days. The possibility of a discussion with Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci was not off the table, Kousios said.

Meanwhile, news reports from the north quoted Ozersay saying that as of July 1, there would be travel without quarantine. This would also apply to crossings with the government-controlled areas.

Kousios said that reactions by Ozersay and ‘prime minister’ Ersin Tatar as of late made it clear that they had in mind the ‘presidential’ elections which were set to take place in April but were postponed to October due to the pandemic.

“It is understood by everyone that the issue is being used in the framework of the pre-election discussions and Tatar is trying to politically exploit it,” the spokesman said.

Last month, Anastasiades and Akinci agreed to allow crossings starting from June 8 for certain groups of people using only their vehicle. The measure applies to Turkish Cypriots working or studying in the Republic, or people receiving treatment at the Bank of Cyprus Oncology Center, the Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics, as well as public or private hospitals. The same applies for enclaved Greek Cypriots or Maronites who permanently reside in the north.

According to Kousios, Tatar and Ozersay have brought about hurdles by handling the issue politically.

Citing an example, the spokesman said when the Republic decided to donate medicine and protective equipment to Turkish Cypriots, Tatar accused Akinci of illegally importing goods to the north.

Additionally, Kousios said that Tatar’s argument that there are still coronavirus cases in the government-controlled areas was an excuse, noting that the epidemiological situation in the Republic is excellent “and we are considered a safe country with regard to the way the COVID-19 pandemic has been addressed.”

He also noted that only a limited number of tests were carried out in the occupied areas and that during the recent teleconference of the bicommunal technical committee on health “our epidemiologists presented all data and the full picture of what is happening in the government-controlled areas while the members of the Turkish Cypriot delegation did not present any data and there was no willingness on their part for cooperation on this issue.”

Kousios also said that “our epidemiologists have expressed reservations concerning the issue of the reopening of the illegal airport in the occupied areas and the relaunch of flights from Turkey, where the situation as regards the coronavirus is not good.”

On Wednesday, Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci on Wednesday took a swipe at the ‘government’ in the north for dragging their feet over reopening the crossing points by saying any discussion over who had the authority was unnecessary.

Akinci said that the bi-communal Health Technical Committee on Health that had a teleconference earlier this week, had a useful discussion on epidemiological data and concluded that the pandemic was under control on both sides.

He pointed out however that, while the Greek Cypriot side had submitted its epidemiological data in a comprehensive report, the Turkish Cypriot side had not.

Akinci said that despite his office’s persistent requests to the ‘health ministry’ for the report containing the data on the north, it has yet to be sent.

He added that the conclusion of this report as soon as possible was essential for expanding the scope of the crossings which can be reopened.



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