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International outcry after British, Slovak UN peacekeepers attacked

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Britain, France and the US issued a joint statement expressing serious concern over violence aimed at British and Slovak UN peacekeepers from Turkish Cypriot forces in Pyla.

The British High Commission, the French and US Embassy expressed serious concern at the launch of “unauthorised construction of a road leading from the north into the UN-delineated buffer zone to the bi-communal village of Pyla and assaults by Turkish Cypriot forces on United Nations Peacekeepers.

“We condemn the assaults against UN Peacekeepers and damage to UN vehicles by personnel of the Turkish Cypriot side this morning.

“Threats to the safety of UN Peacekeepers and damage to UN property constitute a serious crime under international law.

“These actions are completely unacceptable and undermine the ability of the UN to fulfil its peacekeeping mandate.

“It is particularly regrettable that these actions continue despite the UN having presented a proposal addressing Turkish Cypriot concerns in the area,” the statement said.

Turkish Cypriot authorities were urged to halt construction immediately.

“As stated in UNSC Resolution 2674 (30 January 2023), the sides should respect UNFICYP’s mandated authority in and delineation of the buffer zone, refrain from unilateral actions in contravention thereof, and remove all unauthorised constructions.

“We call upon Turkish Cypriot authorities to refrain from any further escalatory actions that risk undermining the prospects for a return to settlement talks and to immediately cease any form of violence against the UN Peacekeepers deployed to the area.”

The trio said that any “actions that could alter the status quo along the ceasefire lines or encroachment into the buffer zone must cease to allow steps to be taken to rebuild trust and work toward the resumption of negotiations”.

Unacceptable

Nicosia also condemned the attack against British and Slovak peacekeepers at Pyla.

Cyprus Government spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis condemned the “organised incidents caused by the Turkish occupying forces in the buffer zone area of Pyla and the unacceptable attack against British and Slovak members of the UN Peacekeeping Force”.

“Threats to the safety of UN peacekeepers are reprehensible and constitute a serious crime under international law.

European Council President Charles Michel also condemned the assault by Turkish Cypriot forces against members of UNFICYP.

Michel said he is in contact with President Nikos Christodoulides and that de-escalating the situation is a priority.

Turkish Cypriot forces on Friday assaulted UN peacekeepers who attempted to block controversial road construction in the buffer zone dividing Cyprus, the UN mission on the island said.

An official said Turkish Cypriot police and military in plain clothes had punched a peacekeeper and assaulted a dozen others by “pushing them back violently”.

A tractor was used to drag a UN vehicle out of the way, and major damage had been caused to three vehicles.