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Construction to begin on Pyla-Arsos road after ‘mutual understanding’ found (Update 2)

comment fahri turkish cypriot police confront un personnel in pyla (tak)
File photo: Turkish Cypriot police confront UN personnel in Pyla last summer (TAK)

Construction on the road between the villages of Pyla and Arsos is set to begin later this month after a “mutual understanding” was found to solve the buffer zone dispute on Monday.

It is believed construction will begin on October 23, with the road set to connect Pyla directly with the north.

While there are details which are yet to be ironed out, the framework for the road and the wider area has for the first time been mutually agreed on.

Among those plans are designs for 400 plots of land north of the village which are set to be turned into residential properties. In addition, a large solar farm is set to be built in a vacant area northwest of the village.

This area of mutual understanding comes as part of a “civil use area”, with stakeholders hoping the existence of such an area will foster deeper cooperation between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots living in the area.

One area of discussion which is yet to be absolutely finalised is the placement of checkpoints.

While all sides have consented to the existence of checkpoints on the road and the general area in which they will be placed, their precise location is yet to be determined.

The Turkish Cypriot checkpoint will be placed north of the buffer zone, ostensibly in the north. The other checkpoint will be placed inside the buffer zone, somewhere north or northwest of Pyla.

This decision reportedly came at the behest of the European Union, though it does present a loose end for the Republic.

As the checkpoint will not be located on land under the control of the Republic, it will not be able to be directly operated and administered by the Republic of Cyprus’ police.

In addition, the understanding rules out the possibility of Turkish military personnel entering into the area of the buffer zone west of Pyla.

The Turkish Cypriot authorities claimed this land to be inside the ‘TRNC’ upon the commencement of construction of the road back in August, and there is a Turkish military position located to the west of the village.

However, it is written into the understanding that this area will now remain for “civil use” and the military position will at some point down the line be withdrawn.

In a joint statement, the British High Commission and the embassies of France and the United States said they “welcome” the understanding.

“We recognise the constructive approach taken by the sides in the process, as well as the essential role of the UN,” they said.

Meanwhile, the United Nations released a statement saying, “an understanding has been reached on arrangements that will resolve the ongoing situation on the Pyla/Pile plateau.”

It added that a few modalities are still being discussed, but the framework understanding will come into effect as of Monday.

The situation in Pyla was brought to the fore in August when the Turkish Cypriot authorities unilaterally announced their intention to build the road through the buffer zone between the two villages.

The Turkish Cypriot side had insisted the road was being built for “humanitarian” purposes, to ensure safe and quick passage for the Turkish Cypriots of the village to and from the north.

The Greek Cypriot side expressed fears that construction of the road may allow Turkish forces to strengthen their own position in the Mesaoria plain, and also pointed to the existence of a building on the road which they believe to resemble a military outpost.

The United Nations Peacekeeping force in Cyprus (Unficyp) declared the road would be “unauthorised” and stated their intention to block its construction.

The following day, Turkish Cypriot personnel entered the buffer zone, with a UN peacekeeper being punched in the face and multiple vehicles rendered “undriveable” after being “violently pushed back”.

The Turkish Cypriot side was roundly condemned by the international community for its actions, including by all five members of the UN Security Council, though they pledged to continue their construction efforts.

Discussions did resume on the matter, however, with efforts focused on finding a “mutually agreeable way forward”.

 

 

 

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