Off-duty UN peacekeepers banned from north

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The UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) has banned all off-duty military personnel from going to the north following a ‘drunken romp’ at a Famagusta beach involving British soldiers.

A UNFICYP spokesperson confirmed the ban is temporary, pending investigations into allegations that two drunken British soldiers sunk jet skis and caused trouble at Glapsides beach in the north.

“UNFICYP operations continue unrestricted across the island.

“We have, however, temporally stopped welfare activities by off-duty peacekeepers in the north as a precautionary measure.

“It is temporary and normal practice when tensions are raised,” a UN spokesperson said.

The incident occurred some two weeks ago when according to reports, up to 10 “drunk and ill-disciplined” British soldiers were involved in a clash with locals after two of them allegedly damaged two jet skis.

It is claimed that the two peacekeepers were drunk and recklessly drove jet skis, crashing them twice and eventually sinking them.

The men and the jet-skis were pulled out of the water by the operators, who asked them to pay for the damage.

Turkish Cypriot daily Yeniduzen quoted the owner, Cenk Akay, estimating material damages and loss of business at around €5,000.

The water sports boss had demanded compensation to repair the jet skis’ damage, but the UN soldiers allegedly refused to pay for damages or give their personal details.

According to statements made by the owner of the water sports, the two officers claimed “nobody could touch them” as they were UN peacekeepers.

Akay was quoted by UK’s The Sun as saying: “I warned the two soldiers to keep the jet skis 100 metres apart for their safety, but they ignored me and drove them like dodgems – they were crazy”.

Bystanders filmed the two men as they boarded a UN van, fleeing the scene.

Reports suggest there was provocation towards the peacekeepers, including an army vicar.

During the brawl, an army vicar was reportedly punched and knocked to the ground.

According to reports, soldiers from UNFICYP’S 21 Engineer Regiment said they were surrounded by locals who threatened they “would not leave this island alive”.

Following the incident, a car chase saw the water sports owner follow the soldiers back to the checkpoint.

UN officials are concerned the incident could lead to deterioration of relations between the local population and members of the UN and damage its reputation.

Last week, Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar requested a “serious and speedy joint investigation” into the incident.

Some eyewitnesses at the scene reported that provocation of UN soldiers and damage to UN property had occurred.

UNFICYP is one of the longest-running UN Peacekeeping missions, with 800 troops patrolling a 180-kilometre ceasefire line.

It was established in 1964 to prevent further fighting between the island’s Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities.