Big protest planned against South Cyprus’ foreign nationals Green Line border ban

The business community from the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus is expected to be out in force for a demonstration at the Metehan border crossing on Friday evening, 17 July.

The protest, called by the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce (KTTO), is against a decision by the Greek Cypriot authorities to prevent foreign nationals from crossing the Green Line.

The measures, described by business groups in the North as “illegal and arbitrary”, also apply to citizens of the European Union, which runs counter to the EU’s Green Line Regulation that requires free passage for goods and people across the island.

Turkish Cypriots are also upset by the refusal of the Greek Cypriot authorities to open the popular Ledra Street checkpoint in the heart of the divided capital. Its closure since the start of March has severely impacted local businesses, which rely on passing trade to operate.

The South’s border ban is viewed as an attempt to harm the TRNC economy, especially its tourism sector, and has generated universal condemnation in the North.

On Monday, in a rare show of unity, the leaders of all six political parties in the TRNC Parliament signed a joint declaration criticising the unilateral ban and called on EU officials “to immediately take the initiative to restore the situation to how it was before the pandemic.”

The following day President Akıncı raised the matter during his meeting with Elizabeth Spehar, the UN’s Special Envoy to Cyprus. The TRNC President asked the UN to take the matter “more seriously”, calling the South’s decision to prevent foreign nationals, and especially Europeans, crossing at checkpoints “a violation of the Green Line Regulation.”

Ms Spehar was also sent a letter from KTTO calling for the UN to intervene in the matter. The internationally recognised body is responsible for implementing the trade part of the Green Line Regulation.

TRNC Foreign Minister Kudret Özersay posts joint declaration of political leaders in TRNC Parliament condemning Greek Cypriot border ban

Their strong public stance has galvanised others into action. Seventeen Turkish Cypriot organisations are backing Friday’s demonstration at the Metehan crossing in Lefkoşa (pictured top), including the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Industry, Hoteliers Union, the Union of Tourism and Travel Agencies, Union of Restaurant Owners, Casino Owners, Union Public Transport Carriers, and Association Of Turkish Cypriots Abroad.

In a joint statement, they called the Greek Cypriot ban “illegal and arbitrary”. An online petition started by Niall Ackroyd to overturn the ban has attracted over nearly 700 signatures.

The borders were closed by both sides in March to contain the coronavirus pandemic. Foreign nationals were able to cross from the North to the South at the Beyarmudu / Pergamos checkpoint, by the Dhekelia British military base, for repatriation flights.

More recently, Cypriots have been able to cross the border providing they satisfy the coronavirus entry criteria for the part of the island they are entering. While North Cyprus re-opened its borders to all international visitors on 1 July, Greek Cypriots are only allowing Cypriots and foreign nationals with a Cypriot spouse to cross the border.