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North Cyprus says to charge duty on UN convoy goods

© AFP / by Dave Clark | Turkish Cypriot Foreign Minister Tahsin Ertugruloglu argues that UN-mediated efforts to negotiate a re-unified Cyprus have failed and that his breakaway state may have to go it alone


Turkish Cypriot authorities will start charging customs duty on the goods carried by United Nations aid convoys to Greek communities in their territory, the breakaway state's foreign minister said Thursday.

Speaking in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Tahsin Ertugruloglu told AFP that he would inform UN peacekeeping chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix of the plan on Saturday "as a sign of goodwill."

But he added: "The decision will be enforced as of October 1."

The most recent round of negotiations between Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders to reunify the island broke down in Switzerland on July 6, after the UN failed to broker a compromise.

Ertugruloglu said his government sees this as the "proven failure" of a 50-year effort to create a federation, and warned that Cyprus' history has entered a new phase in which the UN will not be able to operate as before.

North Cyprus is now discussing its future with the Turkish government in Ankara and has not ruled out unilaterally seeking recognition as a sovereign state, or even becoming a new province of Turkey, he said.

And in the meantime, he warned, the UN peacekeeping force that has been deployed between the two communities since 1964 will have to learn to work with a more assertive Turkish administration.

- Border crossings -

Ertugruloglu cited the example of the goods he said the Greek Cypriot administration in the south sends to Greek communities still living in the mainly Turkish north, in shipments carried on UN truck convoys.

"We keep telling them that that's not necessary," he said.

"First of all, these people don't need these supplies and they sell them to the Turkish Cypriots. But more importantly, the border crossings are free.

"They can go to the south or their friends and family or whoever can come up to the north," he continued.

"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.

"And if they continue to take these supplies up to the north, then we're going to have to charge customs duty that the Greek Cypriots will be forced to pay."

And, in terms that will concern UN officials still hoping to rebuild the re-unification process, Ertugruloglu said that other measures would follow to assert the Turkish Cypriots' sovereignty claim.

"The UN is very upset about this kind of a change in their modalities but they're going to have to accommodate themselves. This is just one example, many things will appear," he told AFP.

The UN had no immediate comment on the threat to tax its convoys, but a spokesman said Secretary General Antonio Guterres sees his role as a "facilitator" between the parties as they seek a settlement.

by Dave Clark

© 2017 AFP