Turkey's Erdogan Criticizes UN Peacekeepers for Halting Road Project in Cyprus

turkish president recep tayyip erdogan

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned UN peacekeepers on Monday for obstructing the construction of a road in the ethnically divided Cyprus, labelling the action "unacceptable." Erdogan accused the peacekeeping force of displaying bias against Turkish Cypriots.

Following a Cabinet meeting, Erdogan asserted that Turkey would not tolerate any "unlawful" treatment towards ethnic Turks in Cyprus, where his country maintains a significant military presence with over 35,000 troops stationed in the breakaway northern third of the Mediterranean island nation.

Last week, irate Turkish Cypriots physically confronted a group of international peacekeepers who had obstructed construction crews working on a road intended to link the village of Arsos in the Turkish Cypriot north with the multi-ethnic village of Pyla within the UN-controlled buffer zone. Pyla is adjacent to the Greek Cypriot south, where the island's internationally recognised government is situated.

Erdogan criticized the situation, stating, "Denying Turkish Cypriots residing in Pyla access to their land is neither lawful nor humane. The peacekeeping force has compromised its impartiality through its physical intervention against the villagers and its unfortunate statements following the incident, which has tarnished its reputation on the island."

The road aims to provide Turkish Cypriots with direct access to Pyla by bypassing a checkpoint on the northern edge of a British military base. This base is one of the two retained by the UK after Cyprus gained independence from British colonial rule in 1960.

Greek Cypriots view the road's construction as a potential military move in a sensitive area along the buffer zone that spans 180 kilometres (112 miles).

Turkey has characterized the road as a "humanitarian" project aimed at benefiting both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot residents of Pyla.

Erdogan emphasized, "The United Nations peacekeeping force is expected to uphold its name and contribute to addressing the humanitarian needs of all parties on the island. We will not accept unilateral actions and violations of the law on the island."

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the attack on the peacekeepers, stating that "threats to the safety of UN peacekeepers and damage to UN property are unacceptable and may constitute serious crimes under international law."

The European Union, as well as the UK and French embassies, also criticized the assault.

Maintaining the status quo of the buffer zone has been part of the UN mission's mandate since 1974, when Turkey's invasion of Cyprus followed a coup backed by Greek junta supporters who sought union with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes the Turkish Cypriot Declaration of independence.

Over the years, both sides have repeatedly violated the buffer zone, as stated by the UN. The road dispute will likely impede the Cypriot government's efforts to reinitiate negotiations for resolving the island's division.

Copyright Greekcitytimes 2024