NEWS

Greece backs Cyprus proposal

Greece yesterday welcomed a package of measures taken by Nicosia to increase trade between Turkish and Greek Cypriots, saying that this served the international community’s target of reuniting the island. The leader of the Turkish-Cypriot administration, Mehmet Ali Talat, said on Saturday that the Greek-Cypriot measures were welcome but fell below expectations. «The envisaged measures… are issues that we have demanded since the opening of crossing points» between the two sides in April 2003, Talat said. «Therefore we are not in a position to reject them.» But he added that the proposals were not enough because they still placed restrictions on the crossing of certain vehicles from the north, such as rental cars and buses picking up tourists at Larnaca airport. The Cypriot government’s announcement on Friday appeared aimed at pre-empting the European Commission’s own intention to begin direct trade with the Turkish Cypriots, something that Nicosia fears will imply de facto recognition of their breakaway state. The Greek-Cypriot measures included allowing Turkish-Cypriot vehicles to cross into the south and exempting VAT from goods sold directly to Greek-Cypriot consumers. In Athens, Foreign Ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos said that the latest package from Nicosia «complements the previously announced confidence-building measures and the sense of security and cooperation between the island’s two communities.» He added, «These measures, which are aimed at strengthening the economy of the Turkish-Cypriot community, are completely in agreement with the framework set out by the UN Security Council resolutions on Cyprus, Cyprus’s EU Accession Treaty… and the EU’s existing regulation on the Green Line» which divides Cyprus.