Another farmer reports harassment by Turkish forces in buffer zone field

Cyprus farmer

There were reports on Tuesday of Turkish soldiers mobilising in the buffer zone area of Astromeritis, Nicosia as a Greek Cypriot farmer went about his work in a field located in the buffer zone, local media reported.

This is the second incident in the space of a week.

For its part, Unficyp said no military violations occurred, despite a UN patrol vehicle interrupting the approaching Turkish military personnel.

According to Astromeritis community leader Aris Constantinou, a Greek Cypriot farmer spotted Turkish soldiers moving towards him as he was trying, with the help of his father-in-law, to repair an agricultural machine on land he has been cultivating for years within the buffer zone.

Cyprus News Agency (Cna) reported that thanks to the intervention of a UN vehicle patrolling the area, the Turkish soldiers were interrupted, and the Greek Cypriot farmer managed to complete the repair of the machine.

“This incident is of concern as no similar activity has been recorded so far on the part of the Turkish forces in the area,” Constantinou said, noting that outposts of the UN peacekeeping force have long been removed from the area.

For his part, Unficyp spokesman Aleem Siddique told Cna that the incident is being investigated, with initial reports indicating that there were no military violations in the area.

On October 25, a Greek Cypriot farmer was approached by Turkish military personnel near Denia, Nicosia.

Denia community leader Christakis Panayiotou told local media that the farmer informed him that three army trucks with about 30 soldiers approached and threatened him, insisting he leaves – despite having a licence to cultivate there. Similar incidents in Denia have typically only involved four to six soldiers.

Siddique told the Cyprus Mail: “The farmer was working without authorisation inside the UN Buffer Zone and north of the ceasefire line, despite being warned several times that he should move back; Unficyp was present, and our presence averted any tensions arising.”

These latest incidents are likely to further compound disagreements between the Republic and the north, with the Unficyp caught in the middle.

UNFICYP is facing pressure from the ‘government’ in the north following calls that the peacekeeping force signs an agreement with it to carry out its mission in the ‘TRNC’. This is understood to be legally impossible for the UN to do.

At the heart of the issue is that every UN peacekeeping operation must sign a status of forces agreement with the host’s authority – which in this case is the Republic of Cyprus, and not the unrecognised ‘TRNC’.