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Cyprus : two new crossing points, but the path to peace is still long

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This is a first for the past eight years. Monday 12 November, two new crossing points will be put in place between the northern part of Cyprus – the Turkish area – and the one to the south, the Republic of Cyprus. They add to the seven already existing. This new opening comes after a meeting between the president of the Republic of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades and the Turkish leader Mustafa Akinci, at the end of the month of October within the buffer zone in Nicosia. Under the auspices of the UN, who hopes for a resumption of peace talks.

Mustafa Akinci (left) and Nicos Anastasiades (right) during the meeting of 26 October. Iakovos Hatzistavrou/AFP

Since 1974, Cyprus is divided by a “green Line” which is under the control of the Blue Helmets where only the Republic of Cyprus in the south is recognized by the international community. “Because of the geopolitical situation of the island, these waypoints may not be called or even considered to be border posts to speak of. It would be to recognize the official status of the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC)”, self-proclaimed, that rejects the international community,” said Nicolas Kazarian, associate researcher at the Iris. These new crossing points are located in the north-west between Lefka and Aplici and is between Dherynia and Derinya.

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“through these points, one tries to ensure that this line of demarcation is less a wall.”

Gilles Bertrand, a researcher at the centre Emile Durkheim

in Concrete terms, persons having the nationality of cyprus can freely circulate. “Turkish Cypriots spend on a daily basis the green Line to work in the Greek part, where they provide the labor to cheap. In the opposite direction, instead, it is the affluent classes of the Greek cypriot population who go to the north, in particular, to enjoy the tourist sites – particularly the seaside – best-preserved and less-frequented”, describes Patrice Gourdin, a professor at the school of the Air, and a phd in history.

The opening of these two new crossing points will facilitate the movement of Cypriots within the island themselves, without making detours. “Through these points, one tries to ensure that this line of demarcation is less a wall,” explains the Figaro Gilles Bertrand, a researcher at the centre Emile Durkheim, and specialist issues in cyprus.

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The point of crossing of Lefka is located in the north-west of the island. Iakovos Hatzistavrou/AFP

These points of passage were prized by the locals upon their establishment. Several months after the opening of the first in Nicosia in 2003, the authorities believed that nearly half of the Cypriots are rendered in the part of the island where they are not resident. In 2017, 646.569 people passed through a checkpoint to go from the south to the north, according to the cypriot police. This represents nearly 54% of the population. But this free circulation through the points of passage can be difficult for some. If a tourist enters the north zone, it will not be able to access the south of the territory. For the Republic of Cyprus, it will be entered illegally on the island, and will be required to stay in the Turkish part.

A symbolic act to re-establish bonds

According to experts, the opening of these two new crossing points will do little of consequence at the economic level. Trade between the two parts of the island are very low. In 2017, the total value amounted to only 5 million euros due to severe conditions which govern their relations. “The goods imported by the ‘North’ may not go to the south as the Republic of Cyprus does not recognize the Turkish part. The ‘South’ does not accept that the products of the territory of the northern part and which have therefore not been imported,” says Gilles Bertrand to justify the little exchange.

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But behind the arrival of these two new crossing points, there is a hidden desire to reconnect the relations between the Republic of Cyprus and the TRNC. Fifteen months ago, in Crans-Montana (Switzerland), the last round of negotiations for the reunification of the island had failed. But through this opening, Nicolas Kazarian sees it, “the fruit of the shared desire to resume negotiations. This act at once practical and symbolic, can create a positive dynamic which forget the failure of official negotiations to 2017”. Antonio Guterres is optimistic for the future of the cyprus issue. In a report recently delivered to the security Council of the united nations, the secretary-general of the united Nations has estimated that the chances of a settlement of the conflict were “present”.