Turkish Cypriot forces assault Cyprus peacekeepers: UN

AFP , Friday 18 Aug 2023

Turkish Cypriot forces assaulted UN peacekeepers Friday as they attempted to block the construction of a controversial road in the buffer zone dividing Cyprus, the UN mission on the island said.

Members of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) from the British Household Cavalry Regiment visit the roof of the Ledra Palace in the UN buffer zone separating the divided capital of Nicosia on April 5, 2023, while behind is shown the flag of the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) painted on the island s northern Kyrenia mountain range. AFP


The incident occurred in Pyla, a village in the UN-patrolled Green Line that slices between the internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus and a breakaway Turkish Cypriot statelet in the north.

The United Nations mission had on Thursday warned the Turkish Cypriot authorities against "unauthorised construction activities inside the UN buffer zone".

But it said its peacekeepers had come under attack on Friday as they tried to block the construction of the road that encroaches on the buffer zone.

"The United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus condemns the assaults against UN peacekeepers and damage to UN vehicles by personnel from the Turkish Cypriot side this morning," UNFICYP said in a statement.

It said the incident occurred inside the buffer zone near Pyla, outside the southern coastal town of Larnaca.

"Threats to the safety of UN peacekeepers and damage to UN property are unacceptable and constitute a serious crime under international law which will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law," the UN mission said.

An official said Turkish Cypriot police and military in plain clothes had punched a peacekeeper and assaulted a dozen others by "pushing them back violently".

'Faits accomplis'

A tractor was used to drag a UN vehicle out of the way and major damage had been caused to three vehicles, said the source who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity.

In its statement, the UN mission urged the Turkish Cypriot side to "respect the mission's mandated authority inside the UN buffer zone, refrain from any actions that could escalate tensions further, and withdraw all personnel and machinery from the UN buffer zone immediately".

UNFICYP said it was determined to block any construction work and would remain in the area.

"The mission is monitoring the situation closely and remains committed to ensuring calm and stability are maintained in the area," it said.

Cyprus government spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis accused the Turkish side of trying to create new "faits accomplis" at Pyla by constructing a road connecting the "occupied village of Arsos with a forward illegal military outpost".

He said it was "an attempt at a very serious violation of the status quo".

European Union member Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish forces occupied the island's northern third in response to a military coup sponsored by the junta then in power in Greece.

The statehood of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus that Turkish Cypriot leaders proclaimed in 1983 is recognised only by Turkey.

Efforts to reunify the eastern Mediterranean island have been at a standstill since the last round of UN-backed talks collapsed in 2017.

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