UN intercept Turkish soldiers near buffer zone

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Turkish soldiers were mobilised in the Astromeritis area, west of Nicosia, as a Greek Cypriot farmer was working in the buffer zone, but UN troops intervened.

The soldiers were intercepted by members of the UN peacekeeping force (UNFICYP) patrolling the area.

According to the UN, no military violations seem to have occurred, but an investigation is taking place.

Astromeritis Community Council President, Aris Constantinou, told CNA that on Tuesday, a Greek-Cypriot farmer, with the help of his father-in-law, was trying to repair agricultural machinery on land he has been cultivating for years inside the buffer zone when he saw Turkish soldiers moving towards him.

A UN vehicle patrolling the area intervened and stopped the advance of the Turkish soldiers, and the Greek Cypriot farmer could complete repair works on the machinery.

Constantinou said the incident is of concern as no similar activity by Turkish forces in the area had been recorded, noting that outposts of the UN force have long been removed from the area.

UNFICYP spokesman Aleem Siddique told CNA that the incident is being investigated, with early information indicating that “there were no military violations in this area.”

It follows a similar incident last week when Turkish soldiers tried to block a farmer entering his buffer zone land outside Nicosia.

UNFICYP said the farmer was working without authorisation inside the buffer zone and north of the ceasefire line “despite being warned several times that he should move back”.

The government had also protested that the UN is not fulfilling its mandate to effectively patrol the 180-kilometre ceasefire line.

The UN said Wednesday it was “stepping up” patrols at hotspots along the buffer zone to prevent tensions.