x

Society

Crossing Points Reopen in Split Cyprus as Virus Numbers Fall

NICOSIA — Ethnically split Cyprus took a key step toward a return to its routine rhythms of life amid the pandemic on Friday when nine crossing points along a United Nations-controlled buffer zone were reopened, enabling ordinary Cypriots to cross the divide.

A trickle of people began crossing on foot at the checkpoint along Ledra Street, a busy pedestrian thoroughfare that bisects the medieval center of the capital, Nicosia. Most of the crossing points are open to vehicles, but everyone crossing either northward or southward must display a negative COVID-19 test taken in the previous seven days.

Officials said the openings became possible after a significant drop in confirmed coronavirus cases on both sides.

Turkish Cypriot Djan Kaptanoglu said it was "a little bit emotional" for him to cross southward again after so many months of being unable to do so.

"I miss it so much," he told the Associated Press as he walked past a police checkpoint after displaying COVID-19 test results that enabled him to cross.

"I wish to see a united Cyprus after all without showing our passport and IDs, but it's OK right now, we can have free movement."

With a digital camera dangling around his neck, Kaptanoglu said he would meet up with three friends and take plenty of photos of Eleftheria Square, a multimillion-euro project designed by the late architect Zaha Hadid that was finished earlier this year. 

Nicosia municipal authorities hope the redesigned square will draw more pedestrian traffic to the old city's core, which is encircled by a wall built by Cyprus' Venetian rulers in the 16th century to thwart Ottoman invaders. 

"Today is just for discovering again, seeing again the other half of my country," Kaptanoglu said.

The crossings have been shut to pedestrian and vehicular traffic for more than a year following concerns that they would fan the spread of COVID-19 to either side. Since June of last year, crossings were only permitted for Turkish Cypriots working in the south, patients requiring medical treatment and diplomats. 

Cyprus' Interior Ministry said that citizens from European Union member countries and the U.K., as well as foreign nationals who hold either a Cypriot or an EU visa, can also cross now.

The closings had caused much controversy as peace activists denounced the move as politically motivated. But the Cypriot government insisted it was strictly a health issue and had nothing to do with politics.

The buffer zone extends the entire 180-kilometer (120-mile) length of the east Mediterranean island nation and has been in place since 1974, when Turkey invaded in the wake of a coup aiming at union with Greece.

Both Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Ersin Tatar, the leader of the breakaway Turkish Cypriots, hailed the agreement to reopen the crossing points, which the United Nations helped broker.

By MENELAOS HADJICOSTIS Associated Press

RELATED

NICOSIA - A Greek activist who alleged sex trafficking rings are luring women and was tied to an alleged gang rape in Thessaloniki, sent Cypriot police a 47-page email with some 150 photos to back it up.

Top Stories

Associations

ASTORIA – The Pancyprian Choir of NY held its first meeting of 2022 and shared best wishes for the New Year with their annual cutting of the traditional vasilopita at Dionysos Taverna in Astoria on January 24.

Associations

BRONX, NY – In a festive atmosphere, the traditional cutting of the vasilopita was held by the Northern Chios Society of Pelineon Agia Markella in the community hall of Zoodohos Peghe Greek Orthodox Church in the Bronx on January 23.

Society

ATHENS – A major snow storm that had been predicted for days still caught residents in Greece offguard and the New Democracy government scrambling for answers as to why motorists were stuck for hours on major roads.

Video

Human Chain Formed to Help After Pittsburgh Bridge Collapse

PITTSBURGH — A 50-year-old bridge spanning a ravine collapsed in Pittsburgh early Friday, requiring rescuers to rappel nearly 150 feet (46 meters) while others formed a human chain to reach occupants of a dangling bus.

Enter your email address to subscribe

Provide your email address to subscribe. For e.g. abc@xyz.com

You may unsubscribe at any time using the link in our newsletter.