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President warns of consequences from buffer-zone violation by Turkish side (Update 2)

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The Ayios Dometios check point

President Nikos Christodoulides on Tuesday warned there would be consequences, a day after armed soldiers carried out an incursion  into the buffer zone at Ayios Dhometios in Nicosia to place a camera on an abandoned house.

Commenting in the evening before attending an in event in Nicosia, Christodoulides said if the status quo in the buffer zone was not restored as the UN has said it would be, then there would be consequences.

On Monday, around 40 armed soldiers were spotted in the buffer zone near Ayios Dhometios trying to install an antenna and rotating cameras on an empty building in the buffer zone known as ‘Maria’s House’.

According to the mayor of Ayios Dhometios Costas Petrou, the property is Turkish Cypriot, owned by a woman who converted to Christianity and took the name Maria.

The house falls within the UN buffer zone and has been the site of several issues in the past, the mayor had said on Tuesday, saying that Greek Cypriot authorities have also been harassed trying conduct municipal works in the area under the guidance of Unficyp.

According to reports, in the past, Turkish soldiers have attempted to seemingly commandeer the house, staying there for hours, until they were told to leave by Unficyp.

“This is a very serious violation. The United Nations has informed us that the situation [status quo of buffer zone] will be restored. If it is not restored, we have already made some decisions that will be implemented, decisions that will not be made public. But, I repeat, the UN has informed us that the situation will be restored. This is an incident that we are neither downplaying nor underestimating and decisions have been made which will be implemented should the situation not be restored,” Christodoulides said.

Asked if the government was concerned, he said “Of course we are concerned.”

He said that it was a consistent tactic of the army in the north to violate the status quo of the buffer zone.

However, Christodoulides said that despite the violations, the Greek Cypriot side was ready to restart talks on the Cyprus problem.

“You realise that the present state of things, the passing of time, the creation of new faits accomplis, such as the ones we are experiencing, do not help to solve the Cyprus issue. So, from our side, it is our own country under occupation, we will do everything possible to create conditions for the resumption of talks,” he said.

Earlier on Tuesday government spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis echoed the president saying that there would be consequences to the Turkish side’s actions both for restarting negotiations on the Cyprus issue and EU-Turkey relations.

Speaking during Tuesday’s press briefing, he said the government expects the peacekeeping force to restore the status quo in the buffer zone in accordance with the terms of its mandate, which derive mainly from United Nations Security Council Resolution 186 (1964).

“It is another attempt to violate the status quo,” he said, adding that the Cypriot government treats the incident “as a serious ongoing violation of the buffer zone”.

Letymbiotis said that they were in constant contact with Unficyp to restore the situation at Maria’s House to the way it was before, ie removing the camera.

“We emphasise the seriousness of the violation, but also the consequences of the plans of the breakaway regime, both for the perspective of resuming negotiations on the Cyprus issue and on the Euro-Turkish relations,” he added.

Asked to comment on if the incursion on Monday was a continuation of the situation that arose in Pyla last August, when Turkish Cypriots attacked peacekeepers to construct a road through the buffer zone, Letymbiotis said that the two actions could not be disconnected.

Commenting on past issues at Maria’s House, he said: “From time to time, where we detected that there was an attempt to violate the status of the buffer zone, we were in communication with the peacekeeping force, from which we expect to take all actions and necessary measures, so that the regime is restored as it was before the latest events.”

“Questioning the status of the buffer zone is not acceptable,” he said.

He added that the government was in contact with other EU members states and UN Security Council members about the violations in the buffer zone.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, Unficyp spokesman Aleem Siddique said “all is calm” in the buffer zone around the Ayios Dhometios area on Tuesday.

Siddique was speaking to the Cyprus News Agency (CNA) and said “unauthorised works inside the buffer zone are strictly prohibited.”

He added that Unficyp was continuing its discussions with the Turkish Cypriot side “to prevent further tensions and ensure the maintenance of the status quo”, and said they were closely monitoring the area.

Speaking on the matter in the morning to CyBC, journalist Rally Papageorgiou, who covers issues on the north and Turkish Cypriots, said that there was no mention or reaction from any officials in the north about the incursion.

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