ECONOMY

CyTA wants roaming deals with Turk firms

NICOSIA (Reuters) – Cyprus telecom firm CyTA said on Monday it would pursue agreements with Turkish mobile phone companies Telsim and Turkcell to allow GSM cellular phone technology customers to use their handsets on both sides of the divided island. Cyprus has seen an historic easing of tensions in the past 10 days, allowing thousands of people to visit places that had been off-limits to them for years. Mobile phone users from either side of the «Green Line» which splits the island lose their signal if they travel a few kilometers into the other territory. The situation has triggered a booming trade in prepaid mobile phone cards in both regions. «We have been asked by the government to establish roaming agreements with companies operating in Turkey,» said CyTA spokesman Paris Menelaou. Turkcell, which owns one of the northern Cypriot operators, confirmed that it was in talks with CyTA but said it was also seeking guidance from authorities in the Turkish capital. «We still have to get a response and positive interest from the Turkish authorities. Once that comes through, there will have to be technical tests and if those are completed successfully, then in two months we could likely have a roaming agreement,» a Turkcell official said. CyTA, which is state-controlled, is the only provider of mobile services in southern Cyprus. Authorities plan to auction a license to the private sector in October, meeting European Union demands for a deregulated telecoms market. Two weeks ago, Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash made border crossings between the two sides of the island easier as a goodwill gesture, prompting visits from huge numbers of people. The Greek Cypriots, who will become one of 10 new members of the European Union in May 2004, last week said they would ease trade bans on Turkish-Cypriot produce that have been in force for decades. The eastern Mediterranean island has been divided since a Turkish invasion in 1974 in response to a brief Greek-inspired coup. Without political reunification, Cyprus will join the EU divided. Membership will nominally cover all of Cyprus but will in practice be limited to the internationally recognized south.