They met with the President to convey their concerns about the impact on local businesses following the closures of four border check points by the Greek Cypriot administration.
The shopkeepers submitted a petition of 300 signatures collected from the Arasta shop owners demanding that the crossing points be reopened as soon as possible.
Speaking on behalf of the shopkeepers, Bünyamin Yüksekbaş said that their businesses were being negatively affected by the closures.
Yüksek who said it was obvious why the crossing points had been closed, added that they were thinking of closing their shops until the crossing points reopened.
President Mustafa Akıncı responded by saying that he understood the shopkeepers problems very well.
He said that he had told Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades from the very beginning that they had made a big mistake by closing the crossing points.
Akıncı added that claims that they were informed in advance of the decision were hearsay.
The President said that the Greek Cypriot leader had informed him of the decision on Friday via telephone, had told him that they would be reviewing the situation again on Monday and that in fact, the Greek Cypriot cabinet ministers supported the idea of closing all border crossing points.
He recalled that the bi-communal technical committee on health which had convened on February 3 to discuss the coronavirus had reached an agreement to implement measures at the points of entry into the island and not the crossing points.
“This decision was reaffirmed at the committee’s second meeting on February 20,” he added.
Akıncı said that Anastasiades had cited the 3000 or so Iranian students studying in the TRNC as an excuse to shut down the four crossings.
The President added that the Greek Cypriot leader had called him again on Wednesday, this time to complain about the migrants crossing over or arriving in the south.
“He insinuated that we were deliberately helping migrants to cross the dividing line as if we are guiding them,”Akıncı said. “Anastasiades said migrants were arriving in the south of the island either by boat or by crossing from the north “through illegal channels He spoke as if the Turkish Cypriot side was sending the immigrants to the south in an organised manner,” the President said.
“This is a mistake, we don’t do that,” he said. He also said this was a humanitarian issue and that the Turkish Cypriot authorities would never exhibit this type of behaviour.
Akıncı also expressed support to the shopkeepers’ plight, stating that the crossing points had been opened through great hardship and effort.
“Both communities have become used to the contact. No one has the power to keep the crossing points closed any more. Firstly this contradicts EU policies and efforts of the UN to bring the two communities closer. There is no justifiable reason for the closure. Even if cases of the virus were detected on either side this is not the way to deal with it. The way to fight the virus is to take preventative measures at the ports of entry. They have not even convinced their own community. But it is obvious they have other intentions and other ideas,” he said.
Meanwhile, President Akıncı received the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative Elizabeth Spehar on Wednesday.
He called on the UN to take a more effective role in solving the situation concerning the four crossing points.
Akıncı added that they will continue to be in contact with both the UN and the European Commission and that he will be sending a letter on the issue to the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.