There have been 140 million crossings from north to south and vice versa since the first one was opened in 2003, with eight million in 2022 alone, according to a review of the operation of the checkpoints over the past 20 years.

At an event late Wednesday in Larnaca, Greek Cypriot negotiator Menelaos Menelaou said the crossings, of which there are now nine in total, constituted a “crack in the dividing line” that contributes to interaction between the island’s two communities.

He said however that eyes must stayed fixed on an overall Cyprus solution where crossing points will no longer be needed and where freedom of movement has been restored.

According to CNA, Giorgos Kasoulides, coordinator for crossings at the bicommunal committee for checkpoints, told the gathering that the crossings over the past 20 years numbered around 140 million, with eight million alone in 2022.

The crossing points had been closed for an extended period between 2020 and 2021 due to pandemic restrictions.

“The crossing points are a crack in the dividing line, which contribute to interaction between the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots and sends the political message that negates the propaganda that they cannot coexist peacefully,” said Menelaou.

“It also underlines the important political message that Cyprus has fully joined the European Union and that the community acquis has been temporarily suspended in the north with the prospect that with a comprehensive solution it [the acquis] will be implemented and valid throughout the territory of the Republic of Cyprus”.

He also said some technical issues relating to the operation of the crossings were currently being addressed. “However, at the moment we are not close to the point where we can say that there are prospects of being able to have some developments soon,” he added.

Kasoulides said the situation was constantly evolving and that issues that arise were dealt with in meetings coordinated between the two sides by the UN.

“Crossings through the checkpoints have increased enormously,” he said. “In 2022 we had over eight million crossings, a very impressive number, while this year already the first months have shown that this number will be exceeded,” he added.

At the moment there are nine crossings but groups on both sides have been pushing for more to open as there is often congestion at certain points. For instance, in Nicosia there is only one point where cars can cross at Ayios Dhometios. That’s why it is imperative that more open up, Kasoulides said.

Turkish Cypriots have asked for a crossing at Mia Milia in Kaimakli and Greek Cypriots have been pushing for one to open in Athienou.

“We want any decision taken to take into account the needs of both sides,” said Kasoulides.

The request to the Turkish Cypriots to agree to a crossing in Athienou, had not been successful, he said as they had raised too many concerns on their part due to military installations in the area.

“They do not consider it to be a normal crossing point for both sides,” he said.

Kasoulides said the government has been fighting for fairness on the issue, saying that there should be benefits for both communities and not just one or the other community. Athienou was one of those priorities for the Greek Cypriot side, he said.