Cypriots seek a bridge of trade

NICOSIA (Reuters) – Greek-Cypriot businessmen have urged their government to consider freeing up some trade on the divided island, which would ease an economic blockade on Turkish Cypriots. The recommendations, if adopted, would be a boon for the impoverished Turkish-Cypriot community, cut off from the outside world by a European Court decision barring trade with the unrecognized enclave in northern Cyprus. «The proposal has been given to the government to examine,» said Constantinos Lordos, chairman of the Brussels Group, a contact committee for businessmen from the two communities. Trade and communication between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities is severely restricted, with very little slipping through the cracks of a 180-km-long UN-controlled buffer zone. In a memo to the government, made available to Reuters, the businessmen singled out domestically produced foodstuffs – both dairy and agricultural – as an area of future trade. «It would be in the interests of the Cyprus Republic to encourage trade in such goods, both as a matter of economic interest and as a gesture of social and political generosity,» the Brussels Group said. Although trade is generally frowned upon it is not illegal. However, the restrictions mean officials are not able to check and certify livestock and agricultural produce from northern Cyprus because the internationally recognized Cypriot inspection authorities have no access. Christos Mavrocordatos, chairman of a parliamentary committee on agriculture, said such inspections and laws should apply across the island. «Today it is impossible for the Republic to carry out checks in areas occupied by the Turkish army,» he told Reuters. He said that if trade were allowed, apparently unrestricted animal imports between Turkey and northern Cyprus could heighten the risks of outbreaks of disease on the island. [Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, in comments aboard a Turkish frigate taking part in military exercises yesterday, repeated his demand for international recognition of the breakaway state.]