Breen Questions Mr Demetris Christofias, President of the Republic of Cyprus during his address to the Council of Europe on Tuesday, 30th September 2008.

October 3rd, 2008 - Pat Breen

Mr BREEN (Ireland). – I respect your commitment to the problem that has divided your country for 30 years, Mr President. How have the five border crossings into northern Cyprus that were recently opened worked so far? Have you encouraged your people to go back and forth? Are there more strategic crossings that could be opened to help your people and are there any negotiations with Mr Talat to open more crossings?

Mr CHRISTOFIAS. – Thank you dear friend. It is a fact that, during the first meeting with Mr Talat on 21 March, only 15 or 20 days after my election, we decided to open the crossing point at Ledra Street, which is the heart of Nicosia. The market was there and I grew up there. I know how that street united Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot sectors in Nicosia.

We decided to open the street. There were two other aspects to the agreement, including restoring some buildings in the area. I do not know why the Turkish side is not moving in that direction. There is stubbornness on that matter. The other aspect of the agreement relates to disengagement of troops from both sides, with a view to demilitarising the whole region of Nicosia.

We decided on the same day to open another crossing point in the north-west where people have been living since 1964 – both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. To go to Nicosia, it takes three hours but there is a possibility of cutting that to 50 minutes. If we open that crossing point, that will release and free those people.

I also had meetings with Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot villagers who pressed us to move forward. I am sad to say that there is stubbornness from the military forces. We must move forward. I asked those questions at the table. So far we have not been able to resolve those issues. There are other useful measures but up to now Turkey has disagreed or rejected the proposal. Security Council Resolution 550 of 1984 called on Turkey to open the ghost city of Famagusta for its inhabitants, but Turkey has not responded. The previous government of the republic suggested opening Famagusta for its inhabitants and, under the auspices of the EU, at the same time opening the port there for trade with Turkish Cypriots. That was rejected, too.

There are opportunities for confidence-building measures which will make life in both communities better by building more confidence between ordinary human beings. They have contact and home exchange visits. They come together as villagers, they reunify themselves and celebrate, but we need more. We need a solution that will solve all those problems.