UN stops Turkish Cypriot flower power

UN peacekeeper stopped a small group of Turkish Cypriot activists bearing flowers attempting to approach Greek Cypriot police at closed Ledra Street checkpoint on Monday.

A group of Turkish Cypriots activists holding flowers attempted to approach Greek Cypriot police officers at Nicosia’s Ledra Street crossing sealed off by the government to combat the spread of COVID-19.

The group wanting to offer carnations to Greek Cypriot police were cut off by the United Nations who said that unauthorised activities in the buffer zone are prohibited.

UNFICYP had issued a statement calling on protesters to refrain from any action along the buffer zone that might disturb public order.

In comments to the Financial Mirror, UNFICYP spokesperson Aleem Siddique stood by the force’s announcement saying that “in the face of new protests being organised, public safety was the peacekeeping force’s priority”.

Although UNFICYP advocates the right to peaceful demonstrations, unauthorised activities in the buffer zone were strictly prohibited, he said.

“We call on all demonstrators to refrain from any actions that disrupt public order, and to respect the UN’s authority in the buffer zone,” Siddique said.

He explained that from the moment that one side has closed the crossing point then the area between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot checkpoints is under their jurisdiction.

He said UNFICYP had strengthened its presence on the ground and was “coordinating its actions closely with both sides to maintain peace.”

UNFICYP’s stance was not welcomed by some Turkish protestors who shouted slogans such as “Peace in Cyprus cannot be prevented” and “Shame on you” and “UN forces out of Cyprus”.

Monday’s demo was part of a series ignited by a cabinet decision 10 days ago to suspend the operation of four crossings as part of measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The government had taken the decision to close four of eight crossing points at Ledra Street, Lefka, Astromeritis and Dherynia.

Police on Saturday used teargas against Turkish Cypriot demonstrators protesting the government’s decision after some of them tried to break through the police line and reach the barriers temporarily installed at the Ledra Street crossing.

Police reported that four policemen were injured in scuffles, while Turkish Cypriot media said eight injured protestors were taken to hospital in the Turkish occupied north.

Two weeks ago, the first such demonstration saw some 350 demonstrators from both sides of the divide clashing with police in an attempt to bring down barriers set up for the temporary closure of the crossing point.

Source: The Financial Mirror