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Cyprus sends letter of protest to UN’s Spehar over crossings (Updated)

Unficyp soldiers at the Ledra St checkpoint (Christos Theodorides)

The government on Friday said they sent a letter of protest to the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Cyprus Elizabeth Spehar over the allegedly biased way Unficyp addressed the two sides on the issue of reopening the crossings.

The letter was sent after the announcement earlier this week by Unficyp calling for more clarity from the Turkish Cypriot side on the situation regarding the reopening.

The government was irked by Unficyp’s lukewarm response to the refusal by the Turkish Cypriot side to implement the decision taken by the two leaders on the crossings, given that in February, when the government announced it was suspending the operation of four crossings for public health reasons due to the coronavirus pandemic the peacekeeping mission took a more critical stance against the Greek Cypriot side.

“Unficyp should have taken into account what has happened and its position in the recent past, be clear about the need for the crossings to open and what has been agreed between the two leaders to be implement, and who is responsible for their non-opening,” Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides told state broadcaster CyBC on Friday.

The minister said that Unficyp’s statements on the reopening of the crossings were “unacceptable” and that through its unclear position, the peacekeeping mission was encouraging circles within the Turkish Cypriot community, that are preventing the agreement between the two leaders on the gradual resumption of crossings from June 8, in order to serve their own political expediencies.

He said the government has sent a letter of protest to Spehar on the matter.

The government was also stirred by the call to both sides to continue coordinating closely on the opening of the crossing points.

“This non-equidistant stance and the referral to an agreement between the Republic of Cyprus and the so-called government in the occupied territories cannot be accepted,” he said.

President Nicos Anastasiades too expressed his dismay over Spehar’s and her associates’ stance on the issue of the crossings during an interview with Antenna TV that aired on Thursday evening.

“My interlocutor and that of each President of the Republic since the time of Archbishop Makarios has been the Turkish Cypriot leader,” he said.

He said he asked the foreign minister to send Spehar a letter pointing out her and her associates’ contradictory behaviour on this issue.

“If they (Unficyp) have not realised that the two sides have cooperated at the allowed, acceptable (leaders’) level, if they are under the impression that the legal government will come in contact with an illegal formation, they fool themselves,” he added.

“It saddens me, but this lack of objectivity that is being recorded cannot go on,” he said, adding that the letter would also be sent to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres himself, “so that he knows what is going on.”

On the issue of the crossings, Anastasiades said it seems that the political games played in the north on Ankara’s orders was to annul what had been jointly decided between himself and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci and give another version on who is calling the shots.

The two leaders said they had agreed that crossings would be allowed from June 8 for some groups of people, but the Turkish Cypriot ‘government’ refused to implement it.

“My concern is who decides, the Turkish Cypriot leader or those who question him and those who pulled the carpet from under him over what has been agreed between us?”

Main opposition party Akel on Friday called on the government to avoid entering a conflict with the UN. Party spokesman Stefanos Stefanou said on Friday that though everyone expects objectivity from the UN and to behave in an unbiased manner, “any reactions on behalf of our side must not give the impression that the Greek Cypriot side in in conflict with the UN.”

Stefanou also pointed out that things are now at a crucial stage given that the upcoming discussion by the UN Security Council of the renewal of Unficyp’s mandate for another six months. He recalled that though the worst had been averted last January when the mandate was last renewed, the relevant Security Council resolution includes “alarming and dangerous references.”

“It is historically proven that conflict between our side and the UN has never led to positive results,” Stefanou said. “What is needed at the moment is to create the right climate and prepare for the resumption of the negotiation process, after three whole years of complete stagnation.”

The Solidarity Movement said it had asked Anastasiades in March to call for Spehar’s recall but that the president had not paid heed to their suggestion at the time.

“We hope the president will not change his mind and in case of Spehar’s replacement, to point out from the very beginning to her replacement, which is the legal state in Cyprus.”

Diko said they agreed with the decision to send Spehar the letter but criticised Anastasiades for delegating “excessive responsibilities to the bi-communal technical committees to the extent that they tend to replace the authorities and institutions of the state of the Republic of Cyprus.”

The Turkish Cypriot side announced on Thursday that as of June 22 people working in the south but living in the north will be able to cross daily between the two sides as long as there was no deterioration of the epidemiological conditions while from July 1, visitors from other countries would be allowed in but also people crossing from the south.

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