2 border crossings open in Cyprus, first in 8 years

DAILY SABAH WITH WIRES
ISTANBUL
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Turkish and Greek Cypriots arrive at Dherynia border crossing, Nov. 12, 2018. (DHA Photo)
Turkish and Greek Cypriots arrive at Dherynia border crossing, Nov. 12, 2018. (DHA Photo)

Cypriot officials opened two new border crossings Monday for the first time in eight years, the latest push for peace by the two sides after U.N.-backed talks failed last year.

Dozens of people from the island's Greek Cypriot south streamed across the eastern Dherynia/Derinya border post, walking past United Nations peacekeepers into the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

"I hope for a solution in which we won't need any border crossings at all," Cyprus (TRNC) Presidency spokesman Barış Burcu said in a statement.

At the same time, the Lefka/Aplıç crossing opened in the northwest of the Mediterranean island.

The leaders of divided Cyprus agreed in October to open the crossing points along a U.N.-controlled buffer zone that cuts across the small island nation, in a bid to generate some momentum toward resuming stalled reunification talks.

Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades and President Mustafa Akıncı of the TRNC met in October for the first time in six months to scope out chances of returning to the bargaining table.

U.N. Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) Elizabeth Spehar also attended the meeting.

Anastasiades and Akıncı agreed after a two-hour, U.N.-hosted meeting to open the two crossings on opposite ends of the 180-kilometer (120 mile) buffer zone on Nov 12, bringing the total number of crossing points to nine.

Negotiations have been at a standstill since July, 2017 when high-level talks at a Swiss resort again ended in failure.

The perils of the stalled process have underscored simmering tension between Cyprus's internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government and Turkey in overlapping claims of jurisdiction for offshore oil and gas research. The matter also strains ties between NATO allies Greece and Turkey.

On Nov. 4, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan warned that Turkey will not allow oil and gas extraction in eastern Mediterranean through plans excluding the nation and the TRNC.

"We do not have an eye on other countries' rights, laws and territories. We only protect the rights of our country and of our brothers," Erdoğan said.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey used its guarantor rights to intervene in the island after a far-right military coup sponsored by the military junta then in power in Athens seeking to unite the island with Greece toppled President Archbishop Makarios III. Turks had already been forced to live in enclaves after decades of inter-ethnic violence and terror.

Successive peace proposals since the late 1970s have been based on reunifying the island as a bizonal, bicommunal federation.

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