Turkish Cypriots block UN aid convoy to Greek Cypriots
NICOSIA - The Turkish Cypriot administration blocked a regular UN aid delivery for the few hundred Greek Cypriots who still live in the breakaway north on Wednesday for the first time in decades, UN officials said.
The move further soured relations between the Turkish Cypriots and the island's internationally recognised Greek Cypriot government, already at a low ebb since the collapse of UN-backed reunification talks in July.
The Turkish Cypriots had warned last month that they would start imposing customs duty on the goods carried by the UN convoys, saying they were no longer needed.
But President Nicos Anastasiades condemned the move, saying it undermined efforts to restore confidence between the two communities.
The UN peacekeeping force said that one of its vehicles had left the capital Nicosia carrying humanitarian supplies for Greek Cypriot communities in the Karpas peninsula in the northeast of the island, as has been regular practice for close to four decades.
"UNFICYP was obliged to limit today's delivery to medical aid supplies, following the Turkish Cypriot administration's unilateral decision to impose taxes and fees on other humanitarian goods," it said.
"UNFICYP regrets the decision taken by the Turkish Cypriot administration, which it considers to be an unfortunate development."
UNFICYP's role of delivering humanitarian assistance to Greek Cypriot and Maronite communities in the north of the island is based on a longstanding agreement between the two sides, and provides hundreds of elderly and other vulnerable people with basic supplies on a weekly basis.
But the foreign minister of the breakaway administration, Tahsin Ertugruloglu, said in New York last month that imposing duty on the UN convoys was one of a number of measures it intended to introduce in the light of the collapse of reunification efforts.
He said the aid convoys were no longer needed as there was free movement through UN-monitored crossings between the two sides of the island.
"The UN convoys are not going to be allowed to carry these things, because it gives the impression that these people are enclaved in occupied territory," he said.
Anastasiades said his government would protest to the UN and to the European Union, of which the island is a member.
"These measures, which are totally illegal, but also go against agreements that have been reached, are, unfortunately, contaminating the good climate we wanted and we are trying to cultivate," he told reporters.
The so-called enclaved are those people who refused to leave their homes under an agreement to transfer populations trapped behind the frontline following the Turkish invasion of 1974.
Turkish troops invaded the island's northern third in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece.