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Denia community leader says farmers threatened again in buffer zone

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The community leader of Denia village located in the Nicosia buffer zone said on Monday that armed Turkish soldiers threatened farmers over the weekend who had gone to their fields to check on their crops.

The farmers had not visited their fields since last November when similar incidents took place, but concerns are expressed over the same happening next month when they will have to enter their fields to harvest the crops.

Deneia community leader, Christakis Panayiotou, told the Cyprus Mail that a group of farmers who had gone on Saturday morning to their fields to check on the crops, were forced to leave after armed Turkish soldiers appeared at a distance of between 10 to 20 metres. Members of the Unficyp intervened, asking the farmers to leave.

The incident follows those of November when, on several occasions, farmers were kicked off their fields by Turkish soldiers to make way for farmers from the north to cultivate the same land, Panayiotou had said at the time.

Since then, Panayiotou said on Monday, no one went there because there are no trees that need constant care, just crops that had been sowed and farmers are waiting for them to grow to harvest.

“We might have problems in March when the crops will need to harvested,” Panayiotou said.

He added that the community council has already informed the foreign affairs ministry and Unficyp of the latest incident.

Unficyp was not immediately available for comment.

Following the November incidents, the Turkish Cypriot ‘foreign ministry’ had accused the Greek Cypriot side of deliberately planning provocations in the buffer zone at Denia and using the village as a propaganda tool.

Unficyp spokesman Aleem Siddique told the Cyprus Mail last November that they are concerned that the incident would undermine peace and stability in the buffer zone.

This is the second reported incident this month concerning involvement of the Turkish military within the buffer zone.

It was reported last week that the Turkish military had advanced in the Strovilia area, in the Famagusta district, increasing the extent of the territory under occupation. They had reportedly placed barrels, bars and chains to cut off an area where the three Greek Cypriot families reside in three houses.  The incursion of the Turkish military had taken place between February 1 and 11.

The foreign ministry said last Saturday that that the UN has officially recognised the recent disputed actions by the Turkish military in the Strovilia area as new violations of the status quo in the region and has made demarches.

According to the ministry, tensions had risen on February 1, when the Turkish military, “citing unjustified allegations of so-called smuggling in the area, placed roadblocks on a rural road, preventing the residents’ access to their crops.”

In the ensuing days the Turkish army informed Strovilia residents that new procedures were in effect regarding their movement into and out of the village, the ministry had said.

The British High Commission had said however that the issue concerned a dirt road used by people when they wanted to avoid customs at the checkpoint. The Turkish side had apparently blocked the road, prompting reports of an encroachment. The issue was settled after they moved their barriers slightly back and the British bases placed their own to prevent smuggling in a disputed zone in the Famagusta district.

The village of Strovilia is inside the Dhekelia SBA but the area in question, along with a few homes, sits just outside the boundary between Dhekelia SBA and the breakaway Turkish Cypriot state. It is understood that there never was an official buffer zone in the area.

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