- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 4, 2003

NICOSIA, Cyprus — Turkish Cypriots poured into the Greek-speaking part of Nicosia yesterday for a look at prosperity and the people they have considered enemies during the past 29 years.The flow across what is known as the Green Line cutting through the Cypriot capital followed a decision by the Turkish Cypriot authorities to allow free movement of the population on an experimental basis.At dusk, hundreds still waited at the Greek Cypriot police checkpoint near the now-defunct Ledra Palace Hotel, where police made sure there were no mainland Turkish immigrants trying to cross.”This is only for Turkish Cypriots,” a police officer said.He and his colleagues exchanged quips in a mixture of Greek, Turkish and English with waiting Turkish Cypriot men and women, some pushing baby carriages. The atmosphere was that of a Sunday outing.Only a trickle of Greek Cypriots walked or drove across the no man’s land to the Turkish Cypriot side, where their passports were checked — a move considered by the Greek Cypriot government as an effort to legitimize the authority of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).Greek Cypriot newspapers described the decision to lift the restriction by the TRNC as a “shock move” by its leader, Rauf Denktash. Some queried whether it was good will or a trap.”This decision is illegal. It is an attempt to divert the attention of the international community from the negative stance of the Turkish side with regard to the United Nations peace effort,” said Greek Cypriot spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides.He said Mr. Denktash was attempting to show that he exercises sovereignty over the north of the island, divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion.The United Nations and the European Union have blamed Mr. Denktash for the failure of the recent plan by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to achieve unity in Cyprus after years of haggling.The Greek Cypriot authorities particularly stigmatized the Turkish requirement of examining the passports of visiting Greek Cypriots, claiming no one should be required to show a passport in his own country.However, the Greek Cypriot police examined all documents of the visiting Turkish Cypriots, apparently a precaution against Turkish mainlanders. Approximately half of the population of 200,000 in Northern Cyprus are recent immigrants from Turkey.Greek Cypriots heading toward the Turkish sector said they were not bothered by the passport requirement.Diplomats said it was too early to assess the importance of the Turkish side’s experiment, and some said it was an effort by Mr. Denktash to minimize the impact of the failed talks.The Greek-speaking part of Cyprus — 63 percent of the island’s territory — enjoys relative prosperity, with a per capita income of close to $16,000 a year, or four times that of the Turkish side, where the economy has been adrift for years.


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