The leaders on both sides of the Cyprus divide received a letter from UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who called for cooperation in dealing with the pandemic and in lifting restrictions at crossings.
Government spokesman Kyriakos Koushios said President Nicos Anastasiades “has every good intention to consult with Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci again if this is required,” but said the letter was a conventional one “which the UNSG sends in the framework of his good offices to all leaders and particularly to leaders of countries where there are conflicts, calling on them to cooperate to combat the pandemic.”
In the letter, Koushios said Guterres suggested that Cyprus boosts the role of the bicommunal Technical Committee on Health in order to more effectively coordinate the two sides’ handling of the pandemic, and called for cooperation for the re-opening of checkpoints which were closed off by both sides in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Regarding crossing points, which have increasingly emerged as a matter of contention particularly among Turkish Cypriots who have been disproportionately affected from being cut off from the south of the island, Koushios said that when conditions allow, the government of the Republic will decide on the re-opening of checkpoints based solely on health criteria, stressing that political criteria were never a part of the suspension of their operation.
The Cabinet in the south gave the green light to close off four out of the nine checkpoints on February 28, roughly a week and a half before the island’s first two cases emerged in the Republic on March 9.
Access to both sides of the island was then effectively frozen on April 11, when Turkish Cypriot authorities moved to suspend the operation of all crossings, expanding the prohibition to include diplomatic corps and members of the UN.
Though neither side has given any clear timeframes on when restrictions on checkpoints will be lifted, and which conditions must be met for this step to be taken, the Republic appears to be planning to relax measures at crossings in unison with airports, which are expected to partially resume operation around mid-June.
In the meantime, and with the north recording zero new coronavirus cases since mid-April and with the the last coronavirus patient recently released from a hospital in the north, the Turkish Cypriot authorities appear to be making plans for allowing certain groups to cross through checkpoints under conditions.