Cypriot leaders will allow people movement by reopening crossing points across the divided island on 4 June, some shuttered since the Covid-19 pandemic 15 months ago, the United Nations said Wednesday.
“Greek Cypriot leader, Mr Nicos Anastasiades and the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mr Ersin Tatar, confirmed agreement on synchronising the two sides’ respective COVID-19 measures concerning crossings and on reopening all crossing points from 4 June, onwards,” a UN statement said.
The breakthrough was achieved after intense consultations over several weeks between the two sides and the UN to facilitate free movement again.
A bi-communal technical committee on Health will assess the Covid situation on both sides of the UN-patrolled ceasefire line on a bi-weekly basis and determine the appropriate risk with a colour-coded scheme.
Green will mean no restrictions; Orange, a 7-day negative Antigen or PCR test, is required with dark red signalling the crossings are closed to the general public.
When crossings open on Friday, the orange category will apply, meaning a negative Covid test is needed to cross.
“The measures will apply to all categories of people, bringing the situation at the crossing points back to the status quo ante, pre-COVID 19 outbreak, including for third country nationals,” the UN peacekeeping mission said.
“Measures that will be applied to vaccinated persons are currently being worked on,” it added.
“The reopening of all crossing points will facilitate free movement, promote people to people contacts, build trust and have an overall positive socio-economic impact across the island.”
There have been calls for the crossings to open after a surge in coronavirus cases has eased on both sides.
France and the United States welcomed the agreement to synchronise efforts.
French Ambassador Salina Grenet-Catalano said, “This positive step secures freedom of movement as a key acquis of Cyprus talks, builds trust and facilitates the resumption of formal negotiations.”
US Ambassador Judith Garber tweeted, “great to see today’s announcement that the crossings will reopen on Friday. Allowing Cypriots to meet, trade, and move freely benefits all who call this island home.”
All crossings were closed at the outset of the pandemic in March 2020; some have stayed shut, like Nicosia’s icon Ledra Street crossing.
Some restrictions were gradually lifted for certain groups at designated checkpoints, such as Turkish Cypriot students attending school in the Cyprus government-controlled south.
Under normal conditions, thousands cross the ceasefire line daily to work, study or seek medical treatment.
The Republic of Cyprus shut four of the eight crossings between the two sides in late February 2020 for the first time since they opened in 2003.
The remaining crossings were closed after the north reported its first case of coronavirus on 10 March.