Turkish Cypriot officials in north Nicosia are accusing city crew maintenance in the south of sneaking into the buffer and stealing a number of items, with UNFICYP weighing in and calling on involved parties to back away from the iconic Spitfire Cafe.
Earlier this week, Greek Cypriot media reported that city workers in south Nicosia had entered the buffer zone at the iconic Spitfire coffee shop, an abandoned building in a run-down condition, in order to clean up the area and carry out some structural support.
At the same time, the municipality issued a statement on Wednesday accusing Turkish soldiers of preventing Greek Cypriot workers from carrying out the task at hand in the heart of the divided capital.
Media in the south also reported that municipality officials said Turkish soldiers in civilian clothing were recording videos of the incident and shouting at the crew, demanding that they leave items in the buffer zone.
UN peacekeepers were seen in the area but due to conflicting information reported in the media, it had not been established whether UNFICYP members were present from the beginning.
'UNFICYP calls on involved parties to suspend all ongoing activity in and around Spitfire Café'
On Friday, UNFICYP Spokesperson Aleem Siddique issued a statement saying they were engaging with both sides to arrive at a “peaceful resolution and prevent tensions.”
“UNFICYP continues to actively patrol the sensitive area around Spitfire café and is closely monitoring developments on the ground,” Siddique said.
Earlier in the morning, city officials in the south said the workers were leaving the area and blamed the United Nations for “failing to provide the necessary protections for the crews to carry out necessary work to prevent the collapse of the building.”
But media in the north painted a different picture, with Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris citing reports accusing Greek Cypriot workers in the south of trespassing and getting inside Spitfire in the buffer zone.
According to Turkish Cypriot officials, municipal authorities in north Nicosia had been planning to carry out repairs on the derelict building and the United Nations had been informed about the pending activities.
“But the Greek Cypriot side intervened and the United Nations were just onlookers watching the violation,” a Turkish Cypriot official said according to the Cyprus News Agency.
Turkish Cypriot officials also went on to accuse the workers of knocking down a section of the building and also stealing items from inside, including a commercial sign.
The Greek Cypriot municipality said city workers, who were carrying out maintenance work “often and quietly” in the area, had been assigned to carry out a job in adverse conditions.
According to current rules, UN peacekeepers must be present at all times during cleanup or restoration work in the buffer zone.
“UNFICYP is mandated to maintain calm and stability in and around the Buffer Zone,” Siddique said in his statement.
“At this juncture, UNFICYP calls on involved parties to suspend all ongoing activity in and around Spitfire Café,” he added.