Closure of Cyprus’ border crossings
Greek Cypriot leader Nikos Anastasiades spared no effort and tried to make best use of the opportunity to close four of the seven border crossings between the southern Greek Cypriot-ruled and northern Turkish Cypriot-run parts of the island.
There are no reported cases of coronavirus in the Turkish Cypriot areas. In the Greek Cypriot south, however, there are some, yet so far just a few, cases of suspicion of the coronavirus, but no loses so far. Was there any reason to exaggerate and close the border crossings? Indeed no. Temperatures are increasing, a deadly development for the virus. Why were the border crossings closed? Did the Anastasiades administration know something no one else was aware of and decided to impose a quarantine on the north? If so, why did they close only four of the seven crossing points?
Public health concerns are of course sufficient and legitimate reasons to take restrictive decisions. Yet, excluding the Ledra Palace gate, each and every one of the border crossing points between the two political entities on the island was opened after intense negotiations and preparations by the two sides, through the offices of the U.N. delegation on the island.
Was the U.N. informed before the closure of the border gates? Was Turkish Cypriot leadership informed beforehand? No. The Anastasiades government said that as a sovereign country it did not require the consent of everyone when taking an executive decision. Why were the border gates closed? No explanation other than a statement that the Greek Cypriot government spared no effort in taking the highly contagious virus seriously. Well done. But, if even in taking measures against a deadly and much-feared virus, the two sides on the island were unable to cooperate, how are they expected to negotiate in forming a federal government and ruling the country with “effective participation” in governance under the “political equality” clause?
If we are to examine the real reasons behind these decisions, it becomes all the more clear that apart from sending a very strong rejectionist message even to those diehard Turkish Cypriot leftist collaborators, I may start preparing a list on top of which might be these: A) To stop Greek Cypriots shopping in the Turkish Cypriot side, where things have become cheaper due to the depreciation of the Turkish Lira against the euro, B) To please the Greek Cypriot conservatives that there is a government that can open but also close the border crossings the way it likes, C) To underline the “effectiveness in governance” obsession coming from the Makarios era and which has been one of the root causes of the Cypriot problem.
If Turkish Cypriots will not be consulted even when the border crossings closure decision was taken, why was an intercommunal committee established to oversee issues pertaining to crossings between the two sides? Obviously, while trying to singlehandedly decide on everything, Anastasiades has outgunned the pro-federation candidates in the Turkish Cypriot presidential election.
With the “I am the sole boss” obsession or “I can decide on everything the way I like” attitude Anastasiades served yet another strong message to the Turkish Cypriots that irrespective of how much they might be willing to compromise, Greek Cypriots will never agree on power sharing on the island.
The international community pressuring a federal settlement on the island must take the border closures decision as a bold declaration by the Greek Cypriot side that, like the past more-than-half-a-century of talks since 1968, insisting on a federal solution would mean letting the Cyprus problem drag on indefinitely.