lashes erupted this morning within the buffer zone near Pyla, Cyprus, as Turkish Cypriots confronted United Nations personnel. The incident unfolded as UN peacekeepers intervened to block unauthorized road construction between occupied Arsus and Pyla, which violates the established status quo. Turkish Cypriot groups launched attacks, inflicting damage on peacekeeping force vehicles.
A statement from the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) promptly condemned the attacks on peacekeepers and the harm to UN vehicles, underscoring their legal and moral implications.
Earlier today, United Nations personnel went to the location to halt the road construction, which goes against the current situation. This led to a tense situation, as Turkish Cypriot groups physically assaulted a few UNFICYP personnel and caused harm to vehicles involved in peacekeeping. The incident unfolded in the buffer zone near Pyla, where UN peacekeepers sought to prevent unauthorized construction, according to official sources.
"The UNFICYP personnel are still present in the area, they simply moved slightly back from the point of conflict with the Turks in the buffer zone and placed concrete barriers to halt the work," stated Simos Mitidis, the Acting Mayor of Pyla, in an interview with "K" newspaper. He also criticized the Turkish actions to open the Arsos - Pyla road as unacceptable.
"Furthermore," he continued, "the Turkish actions could be termed as an occupation of a vast area referred to as the 'Backbone,' spanning over 10 thousand steps. The entire situation once again constitutes a violation of the ceasefire status, and in addition to the Turkish outpost in the region disregarding United Nations resolutions and the terms of UNFICYP mandate in Pyla, today they are attempting to establish further access from the occupied territories towards Pyla, beyond the limits of the British Bases."
The statement stressed, "Threats to UN peacekeepers' security and damage to UN property are intolerable, constituting a serious violation of international law subject to comprehensive legal repercussions."
The United Nations Peacekeeping Force in #Cyprus (#UNFICYP) condemns the assaults against UN #peacekeepers and damage to @UN vehicles by personnel from the Turkish Cypriot side this morning.— UN Cyprus (@UN_CYPRUS) August 18, 2023
Read full statement here: https://t.co/awfxpgY1Et pic.twitter.com/YtK7QW2bbN
UNFICYP called upon the Turkish Cypriot side to respect the mandated authority of the UN mission within the buffer zone. Additionally, an immediate withdrawal of all personnel and equipment from the buffer zone was demanded. The statement affirmed UNFICYP's vigilant monitoring of the situation and unwavering commitment to preserving regional calm and stability.
Photographs depict UNFICYP personnel facing off against Turkish Cypriot "police." An external contractor under the occupied territory's "government" initiated road improvements for the Arsus-Pyla route within the buffer zone. Despite opposition, the project's commencement was attempted, resulting in a confrontation. UNFICYP forces obstructed the work's initiation.
Reportedly, UNFICYP effectively halted the commencement of these road improvements, with "special operations" teams ensuring security within the region. CBC News relayed that Colin Stewart, the UN Special Representative to Cyprus and Head of UNFICYP, engaged in diplomatic efforts to defuse tensions. Stewart communicated with both sides on the island and relevant UN Security Council members, urging dialogue to resolve the situation.
As the situation remains stable on the ground, the European Council President, Charles Michel, voiced condemnation for the Turkish Cypriot attack on UNFICYP members. Michel emphasized the imperative of safeguarding peacekeepers' safety and de-escalating the situation, expressing his involvement and concern for peace in the region.
A statement from the US Embassy, French Embassy and British High Commission condemning the actions of occupying forces was posted on Twitter just recently
Nicosia condemns Turkish occupation forces' actions in buffer zone
The government of Nicosia has issued a strong condemnation in response to the organized incidents orchestrated by Turkish occupation forces in the buffer zone near Pyla. The government is actively pursuing diplomatic avenues, engaging in ongoing communication with the United Nations, Permanent Members of the Security Council, the EU, the Greek Government, and the Peacekeeping Force leadership in Cyprus to counter Turkish plans.
Government Spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis conveyed in a written statement, "The Government denounces the orchestrated events instigated by Turkish occupation forces in the buffer zone near Pyla this morning, including the unacceptable assault on British and Slovak members of the UN Peacekeeping Force. Threats against the security of UN peacekeepers are reprehensible and constitute a serious violation of international law, as aptly articulated in the Peace Force's statement."
Letymbiotis further stated, "The Government is employing diplomatic strategies and maintains continuous contact with the United Nations, Permanent Members of the UN, the EU, the Greek Government, and the Peacekeeping Force leadership in Cyprus to thwart Turkish intentions."
In a separate development, private enterprises, under the "government" of the occupied territories, commissioned road improvements for the Arsus-Pyla route within the buffer zone. Despite objections, the work's commencement was slated for today. Bugun Kipris reported the impending project launch, while Gundem Kibris shared photographs capturing the confrontation between UNFICYP and private company personnel.
Bugun Kipris underscored heightened tensions due to the road demanded by Turkish Cypriots, attributing unease to flawed policy decisions by the Turkish Cypriot faction. The "foreign ministry's" intention to impose a fait accompli further exacerbated concerns among local residents. Notably, UNFICYP forces resisted the commencement of these roadworks, as outlined in the paper's report.