After six days, Cyprus crossings up to 100,000

More than 25,000 Greek Cypriots had crossed into the Turkish-occupied part of the island by 7 p.m. yesterday, through the three open border crossings, according to authorities in Nicosia. Over the past six days, since the Turkish-Cypriot administration opened a border crossing at Nicosia, a total of 100,000 people have crossed the border. Of these, 75,000 were Greek Cypriots, eager to get a glimpse of homes, towns and villages abandoned since 1974, when the invading Turkish army drove some 200,000 Greek Cypriots away from their homes in the northern third of the island. Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot leaders yesterday welcomed the crossings across the UN buffer zone. «This coming and going is a good thing. The people should get to know each other,» Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash told the Turkish Anatolia news agency. «We are trying to create a basis for peace,» he added. Denktash yesterday also called on Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos to meet with him in order to discuss the issues arising from the movement of people. Denktash has been increasingly criticized by Turkish Cypriots for undermining efforts toward reunification of the island; many Turkish Cypriots are also angry at Denktash for torpedoing their chance to join the European Union, as the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus will, in May of next year. Denktash, who was thought to have allowed the border crossings in response to his people’s frustration, is now trying to turn them to his advantage by using them to secure recognition for his regime. His invitation to Papadopouolos, to which he had received no reply last night, was part of this strategy. Denktash’s son, Serdar, said yesterday that the heavy traffic between the Republic of Cyprus and the occupied north necessitated bilateral trade relations between the two entities. He also said he would welcome allowing Greek Cypriots to spend a night in the north. The Turkish-Cypriot breakaway state, proclaimed in 1983, has only been recognized by Ankara, which maintains a 40,000-strong army there. Greek-Cypriot politicians have preferred to draw parallels with the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989. «The freedom of movement ushers a peaceful revolution by the two communities that shatters the myth propagated by Denktash that the Greek and Turkish Cypriots cannot live together,» said Nikos Anastasiades, the leader of the Democratic Rally, the main Greek-Cypriot opposition party. The largely peaceful mixing of people from the two communities was marred on Sunday by an attack on an elderly Turkish-Cypriot couple by the current occupants of their former home in Limassol. One of three brothers involved in the attack was arrested, while police are considering filing charges against the other two. «The state will not tolerate such unacceptable and dangerous conduct under any circumstance,» Cypriot Interior Minister Doros Theodorou told reporters.