Cyprus reopened its checkpoints Friday with the United Nations announcing that the restrictions between Cyprus’s Greek and Turkish sides will be lifted.
Buffer zone barricade near the Ledra Street checkpoint, Nicosia, Cyprus. Credit: Jules Verne/CC-BY-SA-4.0
Travel between the Republic of Cyprus and the occupied north of the island will now be open for the first time since February of 2020.
These checkpoints have been closed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Cyprus has been split in two since the Turkish Army invaded in 1974, installing a Turkish puppet regime in the north, which is recognized only by Turkey, and the Republic of Cyprus in the south, which is internationally recognized.
The agreement to open the checkpoints, brokered by the United Nations, was lauded by Cypriot President Nikos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar.
Cyprus reopens checkpoints after pandemic
The closed checkpoints caused major disruption to everyday life across the island of Cyprus, making it nearly impossible for people to commute throughout the northern and southern regions.
The UN Mission on Cyprus said that “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 for the benefit of all Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.”
The restrictions are being lifted with caution, as Cypriot health officials will monitor the effect of travel through the island on COVID-19 infection rates. All travelers moving through the checkpoints will need a PCR test or a 7-day negative antigen test.
Biden expresses support of strong US-Cyprus relations
U.S. President Biden recently sent a message of support to Cyprus after it entered into failed diplomatic talks with Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Cyprus in May.
According to Cypriot government spokesman Kyriakos Koushos, Biden sent a message to Cyprus President Nikos Anastasiades late Wednesday night.
Koushos stated that in a letter addressed to Anastasiades, Biden called Cyprus a “significant partner” in improving security and stability in the region.
Biden’s position calls for the creation of a Bicommunal Bizonal Federation in Cyprus.
This is based on a plan proposed by the US, Canada, and Britain in 1979. It involves the reunification of the island, the withdrawal of Turkish and all foreign troops, and meaningful reparations to Greek Cypriots.
Additionally, Biden expressed concern at the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’ move to open the ghost town of Varosha in Ammoxostos, which has remained empty since the invasion in 1974, in October 2020.
The provocative decision to open the seaside city was supported by Turkey.
In March, Biden’s Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, said that the administration takes talks on Cyprus’ division “very, very seriously”.
“We strongly support a comprehensive settlement that reunifies Cyprus in a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation,” he stated.
Cyprus sits at strategic location in the Eastern Med
Cyprus, comprising the southeastern corner of the EU, just off the coast of the Middle East, shares friendly diplomatic ties with many nations in the region.
The island nation’s strategic position in the Mediterranean has made it a significant player in the region since antiquity, and the addition of the innovative site has thrust Cyprus into the forefront of politics in the Eastern Med.