The Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci met with UNFICYP head Elizabeth Spehar on Wednesday to discuss the move by the Greek Cypriot Government to shut four crossings along then UN-controlled Buffer Zone last week.
According to Turkish Cypriot media, Akinci asked Spehar to attend a meeting he held on Wednesday with several owners of shops in the north section of downtown Nicosia, who submitted a written request for the re-opening of the four checkpoints, signed by 300 persons.
During the meeting, Akinci said was sustaining discussions on the matter with President Nicos Anastasiades, the UN, and the EU, noting that “both communities have by now gotten used to contact, and nobody has the power to keep these checkpoints closed, as this contradicts EU policy and UN efforts.”
Akinci added that there is “no truly fair justification for this.”
The Turkish Cypriot leader said he comprehends the concerns of the Greek Cypriot Government, but reiterated that the move to close four checkpoints was wrong from the onset, adding that this opinion was expressed both publicly and personally to Anastasiades.
Akinci discusses phone call where Anastasiades informed him of the move
Responding to a remark made by one of the shopowners who attended the meeting on Wednesday, who asked Akinci to comment on allegations whereby he knew of the checkpoint closures a week in advance, Akinci responded that he received an initial phone call from Anastasiades on February 28, where the latter offered his assistance following a fire that broke out at a hospital in north Nicosia.
Two hours later, Akinci said, Anastasiades phoned again to inform him of the Cabinet decision to close the checkpoints, which would be re-evaluated in a week’s time, and which Anastasiades said he was personally opposed to.
Akinci said he had reminded his Greek Cypriot counterpart that during both meetings of the Bicommunal Technical Committee on Health, held on February 3 and 20, the issue of checkpoints was not raised.
“When I asked him what happened and you suddenly want to close the checkpoints, Anastasiades replied ‘you have 3,000 Iranian students and they have families, who may carry the virus’, and I said this was very wrong.”
Akinci said he also told Anastasiades that the measure would use the virus to divide the two communities, which is a wrong move.
Wednesday’s phone call between the two leaders on migrant flows through the Green Line
Akinci also referred to the phone conversation held with Anastasiades on Wednesday, when Anastasiades called to raise the issue of migrants crossing illegally from the north to the south through the Green Line.
“As if it’s us guiding them,” Akinci said.
“They [migrants] cross to the other side in two ways,” Akinci continued. “They either go straight to the south or they arrive at our side and cross through illegal paths. Some live here, some are sent back to Turkey.”
But, Akinci said, Anastasiades spoke as if the Turkish Cypriot administration had an organised system of sending migrants illegally to the territories of the Republic.
“This is a humanitarian issue. As a state, why would we do this?” Akinci stressed.
Akinci repeats call to re-open checkpoints
The Turkish Cypriot leader reiterated to Anastasiades on Wednesday that the issue of closed checkpoints must be re-evaluated before Monday, so that the crossings can re-open as soon as possible, conveying once more that the move was wrong.
To the shopowners, Akinci said that there are several reasons for the checkpoint closures, but the coronavirus pandemic is not one of them.
He stressed he will not be giving up on the matter, noting that it was with great difficulty that the crossings were opened in the first place.
“The Ledra Street crossing was also very difficult to open,” Akinci said, adding that “I fought for three years to open the Deryneia and Apliki crossings, and you’re just going to shut them in one day?”
Akinci finally stressed that there is no justification for the move, adding that if the island sees a confirmed coronavirus case the move will still lack justification, and will not effectively tackle the health concern.
Greek Cypriots were also not persuaded by this reasoning, Akinci said, noting that “it is clear that there are other reasons, other thoughts.”