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French Version

Europe reaches deal to boost trade between Turkish and Greek Cypriots

Agreement expected to come into effect by mid-february
Brussels seeks to 'reward' Turkish North for backing U.N. reunification plan

The European Commission and the Cypriot government have reached a deal to boost trade between the island's divided Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities, officials said Friday.

The new regulations raise from 30 euros to 135 euros the duty-free ceiling on goods that can be taken from one side to the other, including a litre of alcohol and two packets of cigarettes for personal use.

An original EU proposal had set the bar at 175 euros and 200 cigarettes, but the internationally recognized Greek Cypriots pushed for a compromise.

It is not yet clear whether the Turkish Cypriots will accede to the deal for trade across the UN-controlled buffer zone, known as the Green Line.

The preliminary accord was struck during the visit of a European Commission delegation headed by Leopold Maurer.

Maurer said "we are very happy about the progress we have achieved here in Cyprus," also welcoming an agreement struck by both sides to open more crossing points to facilitate trade and people movement.

"We came here with the main objective to make progress on the Green Line regulation. Not only do we have now an agreement on the outstanding points but we also think it is very important that we will have two more crossing points, the very important Ledra Street and the also important Zodhia," said Maurer.

The capital's pedestrian-only Ledra Street is cut in half, symbolizing Nicosia as Europe's last divided capital.

Zodhia will provide easier access to the Greek Cypriot south for Turkish Cypriots living in the northern town of Morphou and vice versa.

EU-funded de-mining will go ahead in the UN-controlled buffer zone at Zodhia, while the main concern at Ledra is the danger of dilapidated buildings left unkept in no-man's land during more than 30 years of division.

Also included in the trade accord are "wholly obtained goods and processed goods originating in the northern part of the island, while "obstacles in the trade for agricultural products such as citrus will be removed," said an EU statement.

The trade agreement is expected to come into effect by mid-February.

EU-approved Green Line trade was introduced last year to help bring the poorer north out of economic isolation after a divided Cyprus joined the European Union on May 1.

Brussels sought to "reward" the Turkish Cypriots for backing a UN renunification plan at a referendum last April, after the blueprint's rejection by Greek Cypriots ensured the island's north stayed out in the cold.

The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is recognized only by Ankara, and the Greek Cypriots are wary that any direct links between Brussels and the north would undermine the sovereignty of the government in the south.

But Turkish Cypriots insist that opening up the Green Line does not go far enough in lifting the north's economic isolation and have petitioned for direct trade and travel links.

According to a recent study, the amount of money going north in 2004 could have reached as much $125 million, from foreign tourists and Greek Cypriots, and the thousands of Turkish Cypriot laborers who cross over to work daily and take their earnings home.

Athens,02 14 2005
The Daily Star
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