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UN official asks for meeting with president over closure of checkpoints — report

The UN special representative in Cyprus Elizabeth Spehar has asked for a meeting with President Nicos Anastasiades in relation to the temporary closure of four checkpoints, the Cyprus News Agency said citing a UN source.

According to CNA, the source said that it was normal practice that when the UN representative has a meeting with the leader of one of the communities, a meeting is arranged with the other. A reply is still pending from the President.

Spehar met Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci on Wednesday evening during which Akinci conveyed his disagreement and concern over the closure of the checkpoints.

The government says the closure is temporary and intended to free up additional resources to increase screening at the other checkpoints so as to prevent a coronavirus outbreak.

It has rejected criticism that there are hidden, political motives behind the closure, insisting it is a public health issue.

UNFICYP on Thursday voiced concern over the ongoing disruption caused to people on both sides by the decision to temporarily close four crossing points along the buffer zone.

“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,” UNFICYP said.

“In this respect, the role of the bi-communal Technical Committee on Health is critical and should be utilized to the fullest,” it added.

The opening of the crossings since 2003 has allowed Cypriots freedom of movement across the island, contributing to a return to normal conditions and facilitating contact and interaction for those who wish to avail themselves of the opportunity, the announcement said.

And it concluded: “It remains essential that the sides preserve the dialogue and coordination they have displayed in mutually agreeing to the opening of the crossings which have been an important confidence building measure between both communities for the last 17 years.”

Yesterday the head of the press office of the President of the Republic, Victoras Papadopoulos countered  that the government’s decision does not fall within UNFICYP’s remit.

“The UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus has no competence over the specific issue. The health of residents in Cyprus exclusively concerns the Republic of Cyprus and UNFICYP has no right to issue such an announcement,” he told Radio Active

UNFICYP’s statement has also drawn criticism from Greek Cypriot parties and especially the reference that the opening of the crossings since 2003 has allowed freedom of movement, contributing to a return to normal conditions.

Asked to comment on UNFICYP’s statement on Friday, Anastasiades spoke of an “unfortunate intervention” by the force.

“Interventions which relate to policies of a sovereign country, the Republic of Cyprus, which is a recognised state of the United Nations and a member of the European Union, I believe is unfortunate.”

He said there was cooperation between the two communities, but responsibility for decisions rests with the government of the recognised state which decides and does not ‘co-decide’ with others.

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