UN police in Cyprus were taking no chances at the Ledra checkpoint on Monday, blocking Turkish Cypriot demonstrators in the north who wanted to bring flowers to Greek Cypriot riot police behind fortified barricades in the south.
Protesters at old Nicosia's northern end of the Ledra narrow strip within the UN buffer zone, also known as Lokmaci, were seen trying to negotiate with UN police on Monday late morning.
While some reports in the south said protesters in the north attempted to break through a UN police line, it later emerged that Turkish Cypriot police officers pushed UN officers back into the buffer zone, following a dispute over area of jurisdiction.
Other local media in the north said protesters holding red roses sought entry into the buffer zone but access was denied by the UN.
Reports said Turkish Cypriot law enforcement authorities were not taking any part in the checkpoint closings, while the administration in the north has condemned the south’s decision.
UN police held the line while UNFICYP, the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus, had called on demonstrators to refrain from any actions that disrupt public order.
UNFICYP has called on demonstrators to refrain from any actions that disrupt public order
Monday’s demonstration, which had been announced in advance, was being carried out by Turkish Cypriot groups including the bicommunal Unite Cyprus Now. While UCN said the demonstrations were peaceful, Greek Cypriot police last weekend resorted to using mild force to disperse the crowds.
Protesters on both sides of the divided island have condemned a decision by the Republic of Cyprus to shut down a number of crossings in the south amid fears of the coronavirus.
Knews understands there were no protesters in the south on Monday, while Greek Cypriot police and special security officers gathered at Ledra early morning to block protesters from north or south.
Officers set up an advanced system of crowd control management with multiple rows of traffic barriers in case of a potential breach attempt.
Police Chief Kypros Michaelides, who has condemned the protests on both sides, had warned that law enforcement would prosecute any person found to have committed an offence.
The increased measures came after protests on the last two weekends caused tension, with physical force and the use of pepper spray by Greek Cypriot police to disperse crowds on both sides. While UN officers were present, it was not until Monday that UNFICYP formed a solid police line to block protesters from entering the buffer zone from the north.
In the south, a decision initially expected Monday to re-assess the need for keeping checkpoints closed was pushed back, with reports saying part of the President’s Cabinet was scheduled to meet on Tuesday to discuss the issue.