The Foreign Ministry on Monday made representations to the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus (Unficyp) over last week’s reported harassment of Greek Cypriot farmers in the buffer zone near Deneia village, when they were prevented by the Turkish army from cultivating their land.
Community leader of Deneia, Christakis Panayiotou, said that the farmers decided not to go to their land on Monday to avoid escalating tension, but from Tuesday they plan to return to the fields in the buffer zone they have been leasing and cultivating for the past five years.
According to the foreign ministry’s spokesman, Demetris Samuel, there had been three incidents last week in the Deneia area.
“We promptly made representations to the Unficyp, reporting the illegal actions of the occupation army, the harassment of the farmers and asking for their immediate intervention for the restoration of their rights and the protection of their safety,” Samuel told state broadcaster CyBC on Monday.
He added that efforts are underway for everything to run smoothly during the farmers’ return to the fields on Tuesday.
Citing Unficyp data, Samuel said that the peace keeping force over the past few years had been called to respond to more than 1,000 similar incidences in the buffer zone per year.
Panayiotou said on Saturday that, on several occasions over the last week, farmers who own or lease land in the buffer zone have been asked to leave by Turkish soldiers. He said that the soldiers are followed on to the land by farmers from the north who started to work the land.
Samuel said that the foreign ministry was informed of these incidents from the very first moment they occurred.
But according to authorities in the north, there was no tension between the Turkish military and Greek Cypriot farmers and the Deneia incident was just news propaganda.
According to media reports in the north, the ‘foreign ministry’ said it had contacted the Turkish military that said that no such incidents had occurred.
It also said that the Greek Cypriot side has tried to force Unficyp to confirm the incident but had failed.
Panayiotou had speculated last week that the incidents could be retaliation by the Turkish military after a group of pilgrims from the north were not allowed to visit the village’s mosque ten days ago reportedly because the road they had wanted to use was not via a checkpoint open to the public.
But the Turkish Cypriot press said since the Unficyp ban on the use of the road between Filia and Deneia the Greek Cypriot side had been trying to exploit the incident and create tension in the area.
The report also said that a group of Greek Cypriots accompanied by reporters tried to create tension in the buffer zone on Saturday and that this had been confirmed by Unficyp. It said that the Greek Cypriot group had violated the buffer zone by driving their vehicles close to the north and shouting slogans.
“The group was removed by patrol vehicles belonging to the UN Peace Forces and this attempt and response in the buffer zone was confirmed by the UN spokesperson with a statement,” it said.
Unficyp spokesman, Aleem Siddique, told the Cyprus News Agency on Saturday that he had no information concerning the community’s claims and could therefore not confirm them.
He said that a Greek Cypriot farmer entered the buffer zone in the Deneia area on Saturday morning without the necessary permission, but left after Unficyp staff asked him to leave.
He reiterated that actions that undermine the military status quo cannot be allowed, adding that maintaining the status quo and ensuring the safety of civilians within the buffer zone remains the most important priority of the peacekeeping force.
Deneia was a mixed village with a total of 128 Turkish Cypriots and 170 Greek Cypriots prior to the intercommunal troubles in the 1960s.