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Politics

Cyprus Reopening Border Crossings Closed Over COVID-19

Ceased fire line crossings on Cyprus on a dividing line with the Turkish-occupied northern third seized during an unlawful 1974 invasion have begun operating again after being shut down in a bid to prevent the spreading of COVID-19.

The gates went up on June 21, with passport checks, after being lowered for some three months as part of lockdowns to hold down the dreaded Coronavirus, leading the island to have a relatively safe record in the number of cases and deaths.

Restrictions remain however, said the news agency Reuters in a report, because each side has its own rules for what allows crossings between the two parts of the split island, the government on the southern part a member of the European Union.

Cyprus' internationally recognized government,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, the report said.

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.

Not many people tried to use the main checkpoint in the capital of Nicosia. One who crossed, Turkish-Cypriot Harun Denizkan, was heading with his family to the occupied territory to see his father.

Asked about the charge for the test, he then said: "I guess scientists know what they are doing."

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.

Before the closure, thousands would cross the island daily for work, tuition or medical reasons, the report noted, and there were ferocious protests when the gates came down, sometimes turning violent.

“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."

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