Big protest at border
By KEREM HASAN / Chief Reporter
A 500-strong crowd marched on the Metehan crossing point in Lefkoşa last night accusing the Greek side of attempting to “strangle North Cyprus,” as anger mounted over the Greek Cypriot’s recent hardline stance on border crossing, which has seen many EU citizens and other nationalities refused entry to the TRNC.
Political leaders, business and tourism chiefs and civil groups united to lead the protest. They expressed outrage that the Greek Cypriots were using Covid-19 as an excuse to restrict crossings, with claims this was being done to “further isolate the economy and tourism of North Cyprus.”
Political leaders, business and tourism chiefs and civil groups united in protest last night against the Greek Cypriot’s recent hardline stance on border crossing, which has seen many EU citizens and other nationalities refused entry to the North.
A 500-strong crowd marched on the Metehan crossing point in Lefkoşa accusing the Greek side of “racism” and attempting to “strangle North Cyprus.”
Organisers expressed outrage that the Greek Cypriots were using Covid-19 as an excuse to restrict crossings, with claims this was being done to “further isolate the economy and tourism of North Cyprus.”
Holding Turkish and TRNC flags, protestors also held up banners saying: “No More Isolation, Enough is Enough;” “Stop Violating EU Rules;” “Green Line Regulation is an EU Regulation” “ Free Movement of Persons is a Right;” and “ Yes, We do Exist!”
Organised by the Cyprus Turkish Chamber of Commerce (KTTO), the protest was held at the Metehan crossing point in Lefkoşa last night, backed by the Cyprus Turkish Chamber of Industry, Cyprus Turkish Hoteliers’ Union, Cyprus Turkish Travel Agents’ Union, Association of Turkish Cypriots Abroad, Cyprus Turkish Businessmans ‘Association, Cyprus Turkish Tourism and Travel Agencies’ Union, Cyprus Turkish Contractors’ Union, taxi and transport unions, casino operators union, restaurateurs union and others.
Speaking to Cyprus Today, KTTO president, Turgay Deniz, said that they had gathered to “protest the Greek Cypriots for acting against the Green Line regulation, which clearly regulates Green Line crossings and provides the freedom of movement for EU nationals.
“However, the Greek Cypriot side has stepped up its stance of placing an obstacle and not allowing EU and British nationals in being able to cross the checkpoints freely including many of our guests who come from abroad wishing to cross from the South to the North.
“It is important that the world and the EU lend us an ear to this illegality.”
Cyprus Turkish Travel Agents’ Union head Orhan Tolun told this newspaper during the protest: “What the Greek Cypriot side is doing is tantamount to racism. It is aimed at further isolating North Cyprus, in retaliation with the conflict over hydrocarbon drillings in the Eastern Mediterranean that has flared up again recently.
“The Greek Cypriots do not want to allow non Cypriots to cross to the North, and are using the Covid-19 pandemic as a camouflage to strangle our economy and tourism.
“We are also of the view that the illegal action of preventing the free movement of EU nationals in Cyprus contravenes the Green Line Regulation, which the Greek Cypriot side is trying to change.”
Cyprus Turkish Hoteliers’ Union head, Dimağ Çağıner, said: “There is no scientific basis for allowing Republic of Cyprus and TRNC citizens to cross the checkpoints, but not allowing EU nationals and British subjects to cross likewise, supposedly because of Covid-19.
“The Green Line Regulation also specifies that changes to the Regulation can only be done after consultation with the European Commission, which has not been done.
“This is causing friction between the two sides and eroding confidence and will serve as a blow to any future talks for a solution. It does not show good intention whatsoever. The Regulation is an EU Regulation,” he said.
Mr Çağıner said that the protest footage and photographs will be used and sent to the UN and EU to show the outrage of Turkish Cypriots and foreign residents to highlight the “illegality and injustice.”
ATCA coordinator, Hatice Salih Kerimgil, said: “The actions of the Greek Cypriot administration come at a time when the world faced a worldwide pandemic, and at a time when there is a need to have dialogue and good neighbourly relations.
“There is no justification for an administration to contravene the Green Line Regulation. The Regulation clearly specifies that the Greek Cypriot side can only carry out checks on all persons crossing the border with a view to combating illegal immigration, and that every person shall undergo at least one such check in order to establish their identity. Going outside the rules as provided in this regulation and putting forward obstacles to hinder the free movement of British and EU nationals means it is unlawful. “
Earlier, Prime Minister Ersin Tatar called on the Greek Cypriot administration to change their attitude - and for the European Union to accelerate their initiatives for the Green Line Regulation.
Mr Tatar said “Our call must be taken into consideration and the prohibition of the crossing of foreigners between the two sides must be discontinued as soon as possible.”
Deputy prime minister and foreign minister, Kudret Özersay sent a letter to the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and President of EU Commission Ursula von der Leyen calling on them to end the arbitrary and prohibitive applications of the Greek Cypriot administration preventing foreigners who arrived in the south from crossing over.
In a written statement, Özersay said that the new restrictions set at the crossing points by the Greek Cypriot authorities had nothing to do with health or the Coronavirus pandemic. The declaration was signed by all political parties represented in the TRNC Assembly
“This ill-intended move is aimed solely at the TRNC economy,” Özersay stressed.
“We have been conveying this to the United Nations and our European Union counterparts since July 1st. We have been telling them that these new restrictions have nothing to do with the pandemic, and that the move is aimed at reducing the rights stemming from the Green Line Regulation and that it aims to harm the Turkish Cypriot economy,” he added.
Hoteliers say they been practically empty since flights to the island resumed.
During the eight-day period between 1-8 July, 4,422 passengers arrived by air and sea in North Cyprus. However, only 1,000 of these people were tourists, according to data from the Civil Aviation Authority.
Those involved in the tourism sector say they had gained no benefits from the arrivals so far. They noted that even if all the passengers were tourists staying at hotels, they would still not have full occupancy.
Sales and marketing director of the Merit Hotel in Nicosia, Tugce Unsal, said that the hotel has a capacity of 116 rooms and that only seven are full. “This situation will continue until there are more flights and crossings from the south,” he added.