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22 June, 2024
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Presidential contender, ministry swing for the fences

Cypriot government responds to peace negotiator running for office in latest online spat over barbwire


Cypriot presidential candidate Andreas Mavroyiannis drew heavy criticism from the interior ministry on Monday, after the former chief negotiator spoke on the weekend against a controversial barbwire fence south of the buffer zone.

Mavroyiannis, who is running for office with support from left party AKEL, took to Facebook over the weekend when he wrote about his visit near the buffer zone in rural Nicosia, also known as the green line splitting the island into a Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish Cypriot north.

The career diplomat, who led Greek Cypriots in peace talks as a peace negotiator, criticized government policy on immigration, saying barbwire was making problems worse for local residents and UNFICYP members, as well as hindering peace negotiations, instead of providing solutions.

“Barbed wire fences, blockades, buffer zones, and inhumane practices have no place in the Cyprus of tomorrow,” Mavroyiannis said.

'Barbed wire fences, blockades, buffer zones, and inhumane practices have no place in the Cyprus of tomorrow' said Mavroyiannis

The presidential candidate went on to suggest that movement of local farmers in the area was being hindered by fence installations and also pointed the finger at the government for breaking immigration laws.

“We cannot violate International Law by placing obstructions to people who seek political asylum while at the same time elevating the risk to their physical integrity,” Mavroyiannis said.

But the interior ministry issued a statement on Monday citing the Green Line Regulation and accusing Mavroyiannis of dodging the immigration question.

“It would be very interesting for the Cypriot people to learn about Mr. Mavroyiannis’ position on the migration issue,” the statement said, further asking the question whether the presidential candidate would agree with the notion that deterring undocumented migrants from illegally entering the Republic of Cyprus was in fact necessary.

“Does he acknowledge the Republic's obligation to comply with the provisions of Regulation (EC) 866/2004 which defines the minimum rules for control of persons crossing the green line in order to prevent the illegal crossing of third country nationals?” the ministry asked.

A European Council decision for the accession of the Republic of Cyprus states that “third-country nationals shall only be allowed to cross the line provided they a) possess either a residence permit issued by the Republic of Cyprus or a valid travel document and, if required, a valid visa for the Republic of Cyprus, and b) do not represent a threat to public policy or public security.”

But critics have pointed out that Interior Minister Nouris, who is known for his tough stance on migration, has ordered officers not to authorize entry of asylum seekers at buffer zone checkpoints, with pro-migrant activists often arguing this has resulted in an increase of illegal and often dangerous crossings.

The ministry also went to argue that Mavroyiannis was “equating a simple barbwire with the real reason behind the division, which is none other than 40,000 Turkish occupation troops.”

“We didn't hear and we didn't even see in his post any condemnation of those really responsible for the problem, for the exploitation of these people,” the statement said, repeating the ministry’s position that Turkey was using the migration issue as an instrument for its own benefit.

Mavroyiannis had also stated in his post that the Greek Cypriot fences were obstructing the movement of UN peacekeepers on the divided island.

A recent UN Security Council report urged Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots “to respect UNFICYP’s mandated authority in — and delineation of — the buffer zone,” calling on both sides to respect the integrity of the buffer zone, remove all unauthorized constructions, and prevent unauthorized military or civilian activities within and along the ceasefire lines.

Nouris has recently pushed for private police officers to patrol areas near the buffer zone, prompting criticism from UN and Turkish Cypriot officials.

But Monday’s statement challenged Mavroyiannis’ “belated pre-election show of interest in those working and permanently residing in the buffer zone,” saying that “we have made provisions for the free movement and mainly their safety.”

Cyprus  |  buffer zone  |  wire  |  migration  |  asylum  |  Nouris  |  Mavroyiannis  |  election 2023  |  Turkey  |  politics  |  Green Line Regulation

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