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Turkish Cypriot head criticises crossing closures over coronavirus

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Nicosia (AFP)

Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci on Monday criticised the Greek Cypriots' closure of several crossings on the divided island's ceasefire line over the novel coronavirus crisis.

"This one-sided decision was not a correct decision, it should be revised," Akinci told President Nicos Anastasiades, his Greek Cypriot counterpart, in a telephone call.

"This virus is a common threat for both communities. For this reason, it is necessary to act together against this danger and fight together," he said, quoted by Turkish Cypriot officials.

"Such unilateral decisions would separate societies even more than protecting the two communities from a virus from outside sources," he said.

Akinci urged Anastasiades to "correct" what he called a political decision not based on scientific grounds, pointing out there has been no confirmed COVID-19 case in either the south or the north of Cyprus.

Four of the eight checkpoints on the line dividing the island were closed Saturday for a seven-day period "for more effective control over the entry points", Greek Cypriot authorities said.

Anastasiades had informed Akinci of the decision on the eve of the closures.

The Mediterranean island is split between the Republic of Cyprus -- a European Union member state -- and the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, recognised only by Ankara.

UN-brokered reunification talks between Anastasiades and Akinci have been suspended since 2017.

Turkey has had troops stationed on the island since 1974 when it invaded and occupied its northern third in response to a coup sponsored by the military junta then ruling Greece.

The crossings were first opened in 2003 at the initiative of the Turkish Cypriot side.

Cyprus has not reported any cases of the novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 3,000 people worldwide, mostly in China, where the epidemic started in late December.

Anastasiades has offered his summer residence in the Troodos mountains to quarantine those who have visited infected countries but show no symptoms.

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