NICOSIA (Reuters) – Cyprus started reopening crossings between the Turkish and Greek Cypriot sides on Sunday after being shut for more than three months because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But for most Cypriots, movement between the two parts of the divided Mediterranean remained restricted, as the two sides applied different sets of rules.
Cyprus’s internationally recognised government, which in effect controls only the south of the island, said it would permit crossings from Sunday for those who can produce a negative test for COVID-19 each time they cross.
Turkish Cypriot authorities also made the tests a requirement, and said only certain groups of individuals could cross.
Andreas Paralikis, a peace activist, said paying for the tests and different rules would put off many people, especially those who cross regularly.
“Its killing all traffic,” he said.
Few attempted to cross a checkpoint in the capital Nicosia. One person who did cross, Turkish Cypriot Harun Denizkan, was heading with his family to northern Cyprus to see his father.
Asked about the charge for the test, he said: “I guess scientists know what they are doing.”
Cyprus was split in a Turkish invasion in 1974 following a brief Greek-inspired coup. There are a number of crossings along a United Nations-controlled ceasefire line which bisects the island from east to west. Those crossings started opening from 2003, after years of absolute segregation on the island.
Northern Cyprus has been recognised only by Ankara.
Before the closure, thousands would cross the island daily for work, tuition or medical reasons. [L8N2CN60O].
“COVID didn’t bring us closer together and it saddens me,” said Denizkan. “The two communities, the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, should sort their stuff out and not wait for others to solve it for them.”
(Reporting by Michele Kambas, Editing by Timothy Heritage)