NICOSIA – The United Nations – which has long kept peacekeepers on Cyprus – said the closing of four border crossings on the divided island where Turkey has occupied the northern third since an unlawful 1974 invasion was worrisome and disruptive.
“Following the decision to temporarily close four crossing points along the buffer zone, UNFICYP is concerned by the ongoing disruption caused to people on both sides,” the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus said in a statement.
“While the UN supports all effective measures to address any potential public health emergency, it is imperative for the two sides to coordinate closely in order to provide a comprehensive response,” it added, said the Agence France-Presse news site.
Four of the eight checkpoints on the line dividing the island were closed Feb. 29 for an initial seven-day period “for more effective control over the entry points,” Cypriot authorities said although no cases of the so-called COVID-19 have been reported.
Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said they would remain closed until at least March 9 when another assessment will be made.
Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci said the border crossings were “unilateral” and “unnecessary,” with the economically-depressed Turkish-Cypriot side recognized only by Turkey relying on tourists crossing over to spend money.
“This one-sided decision was not a correct decision, it should be revised,” Akinci told Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades in a telephone call, said AFP.
“This virus is a common threat for both communities. For this reason, it is necessary to act together against this danger and fight together,” he said, quoted by Turkish Cypriot officials.
Akinci urged Anastasiades to “correct” what he called a political decision not based on scientific grounds, which the Cypriot President, whose country is a member of the European Union, denied.
“We have taken a decision which is based on scientific data,” said Anastasiades over the first closing of the crossings since they were opened in 2003, with residents on both sides demonstrating and trying anxiously to pull down the barriers.