NEWS

Day trips in Cyprus

Turkish Cypriots will be free to cross into the government-held part of the island for one-day visits starting today after authorities in the Turkish-occupied north suddenly announced an easing of travel restrictions. «The ban is lifted, the barricades are being removed,» rejoiced the daily Afrika, whose opposition to Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash has often got it into trouble. The National Council of Greek-Cypriot political leaders held an emergency meeting yesterday to discuss the Turkish-Cypriot decision announced late on Monday, and decided that the measure was illegal because it had been decided by an authority that has no jurisdiction. Cypriot government sources and foreign diplomats on the island saw the move by Denktash as an effort to regain some credibility with his people after Cyprus signed an accession treaty with the EU last Wednesday. As long as the island remains divided, only Greek Cypriots will enjoy the benefits of EU membership. Denktash’s son, Serdar Denktash, announced that from today, Turkish Cypriots will be able to cross the Green Line and stay in the southern part of the island from 6.30 a.m. to midnight, after showing their identity cards and on the condition that they are carrying up to 50 euros’ worth of money. Until now, Turkish Cypriots had to apply for permits 48 hours before visiting the south. Greek Cypriots, Denktash said, would be able to cross from 9 a.m. to midnight after showing their passports – which would suggest that the breakaway statelet in northern Cyprus, which is recognized only by Turkey, enjoyed legitimacy. «The restrictions imposed by the occupation regime are illegal. For this we welcome any development that lifts the illegality,» Cypriot government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides told reporters in Nicosia. He said that Turkish Cypriots, «as citizens of Cyprus, may move about freely.» But the decision to lift a ban on Greek Cypriots entering the north was illegal and an attempt by Denktash «to show that he, allegedly, exercises sovereignty in the occupied region and that this constitutes a separate state,» Chrysostomides said. He said Greek Cypriots would not be stopped from crossing the Green Line, but added, «It would be incomprehensible for Greek Cypriots to provide legal status to the Turkish-Cypriot authorities by presenting their passports, or signing any documents in the form of an entry permit.»