Leader of the ruling coalition in the Turkish occupied north, Ersin Tatar has accused Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci of smuggling COVID-19 drugs and protective gear from the Cyprus Republic.
The medical supplies were delivered on Thursday after Akinci made a personal request during a phone call with Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades who had responded positively.
Tatar, who was against Akinci’s initiative, said that the supplies were transferred illegally to the north by Akinci’s office in cooperation with Turkish Cypriot Nicosia Mayor Mehmet Harmanci, which facilitated the transfer.
Tatar’s office said in a written statement that the supplies, which include around 2,000 chloroquine pills and 4,000 pieces of personal protective equipment for health professionals, would be checked, and if deemed suitable, permission would be given for their use.
He argued that for the entry of any drug or medical equipment to the north, permission must first be given by the ‘pharmaceutical services’ and then they must pass through ‘customs’.
Tatar’s office said that the competent authorities will be looking into the matter of the “illegal import of the supplies” and that the necessary actions would be taken.
They also said that since the supplies may have been touched by people on the Greek Cypriot side health authorities in the north will look into whether people who came into contact with Greek Cypriots during the delivery, would be quarantined.
“We learned from this announcement that we have conducted a major smuggling crime,” Akinci said in response.
He added that the delivery of the supplies was arranged in the same fashion as in the past by the bicommunal technical committee on health when similar demands were forwarded to the Greek Cypriot side.
Akinci was not the only one to react to Tatar’s stance.
Head of main opposition Republican Turkish Party (CTP), Tufan Erhurman, called for a little more seriousness, while the former leader of the Democratic Party Serdar Denktash said the coalition was trying to “drive people mad”.
“It was well known that the supplies were on their way but when they actually arrived, they were treated as smuggled goods,” Denktash posted on Facebook.
Also responding to Tatar’s accusation, the committee’s Turkish Cypriot members said in a statement that both sides had cooperated during the swine flu and bird flu epidemics noting that communicable diseases “do not recognise borders”.