Turkish Cypriot farmers met with the north’s ‘prime minister’ Unal Ustel on Wednesday in an attempt to resolve the ongoing dispute over the ‘government’s’ decision to import meat.

The meeting in and of itself represented a victory for the farmers, with Ustel having insisted earlier in the week that he would only meet the farmers at the ‘agriculture ministry’ building rather than in his own office.

However, with tensions now simmering down, farmers unions’ representatives were invited inside to meat with Ustel, ‘finance minister’ Ozdemir Berova, ‘agriculture minister’ Huseyin Cavus, and ‘economy minister’ Olgun Amcaoglu.

After the meeting, Ustel and the north’s animal producers’ and breeders’ union chairman Mustafa Naimogullari appeared together in front of journalists, with Naimogullari thanking Ustel for his time.

He said he had conveyed his sectors problems to Ustel, and that Ustel will now discuss the issue at a cabinet meeting to be held on Friday.

“There are steps which need to be taken to prevent the sector from falling into a difficult situation. The prime minister listened to us and said he would do the necessary work,” he said.

Ustel said it is the ‘government’s’ duty to “support both producers and consumers”.

“We are working to achieve this balance,” he said, adding that his ‘government’s’ aim is to “ensure our people’s comfort by ensuring unity and solidarity.”

He insisted that meat imports will go ahead “for a while” so that people “with low purchasing power” will be able to buy it, thus eliminating the need for people to “go to the south and buy meat”.

With the meeting over, Naimogullari announced that the protest which had gone on outside the ‘prime minister’s’ office for a week and a half would be brought to an end, and that farmers would park their vehicles outside the ‘agriculture ministry’ building instead.

Earlier on Wednesday, Ustel had said the decision had been taken for meat to be imported after there had been a large number of arrests made and fines levied against Turkish Cypriots who attempted smuggle meat to the north from the Republic with the aim of avoiding the high meat prices seen in the north.

He expressed concern that Turkish Cypriots were buying “meat of unknown origin from southern Cyprus”, and that instead, the north would begin importing meat which complies with “European Union standards”.

In any case, at present, the Green Line regulation prohibits the movement of animals and animal products from one side of Cyprus to the other.

Wednesday’s developments are a marked improvement on the state of play at the end of Tuesday, when neither the farmers nor the ‘government’ would back down during a meeting aimed at resolving the dispute.

However, Cavus insisted that the ‘government’ is “determined” to import meat, and that the first batches will arrive this week.

“Three shipments will be made this week, and 20.9 tonnes of meat will arrive. Subsequent to that, the amount will be evaluated according to our needs,” he said.

He added that the first batch will arrive from the Netherlands, and that the ‘government’ has been “sensitive” to ensure that meat is imported from “disease-free countries”.

He also said the ‘government’s’ price controls on meat will continue until June 19.

Meanwhile, ‘transport minister’ Erhan Arikli had said the north will also be looking to import meat from Spain and promised that retail prices of meat would decrease once the imported meat arrives.