NEWS

Lifting travel ban is no solution, Cyprus agrees with Annan

The decision in April by Turkish-Cypriot authorities to ease travel restrictions does not constitute a solution for the divided island, Cypriot government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides stressed yesterday, reiterating the conviction expressed by the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in his report on the UN operation in Cyprus. Chrysostomides noted that Annan’s observations in the report, which was made public last week and recommends the extension by six months (until December 15) of the UN peacekeeping force’s mandate on the island (UNFICYP), came as no surprise. «The recent developments are not a substitute for a comprehensive settlement. It seems highly unlikely that such a settlement can be achieved without the genuine political commitment to the proposal I have put forward and a formal timetable to finalize negotiations,» Annan concludes in the report. Chrysostomides was blunter in his assessment yesterday, stressing that a solution to the Cyprus problem requires a willingness from the Turkish side which does not exist. Another significant focus of Annan’s report was his grievance that Turkish-Cyrpiot forces infringed upon the free movement of the UN’s peacekeeping forces on the island. «While I welcome the limited easing of restrictions by the Turkish-Cypriot authorities on UNFICYP’s movement as a first step, I urge that UNFICYP be provided unhindered access and full freedom of movement to carry out its mandate throughout its entire area of responsibility.» Annan made particular reference to the restrictions of movement along the Famagusta-Dherinia road, imposed in November 2000, which «continued to constrain UNFICYP from monitoring the entire fenced-off area of Varosha (in the Turkish-occupied north),» he noted, adding that «the United Nations holds the Government of Turkey responsible for maintaining the status quo in Varosha.» Annan also noted that it was «regrettable that no progress has been achieved in restoring the status quo ante in the village of Strovilia.» The report also remarked that UNFICYP resources had been stretched since April 23 when Turkish-Cypriot authorities opened up the Ledra and Pergamos crossing points (leading to an average of 13,000 people crossing per day) and that an extra 34 UN civilian police officers would be needed to deal with «the additional responsibilities thrust upon UNFICYP.»