By Dimitris Georgopoulos
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen joined the UK, France and the US in expressing disapproval of an assault on UN peacekeepers in Cyprus by Turkish Cypriots, Politico reported on Saturday.
“I strongly condemn the attacks on @UN_CYPRUS peacekeepers by Turkish Cypriot personnel. Threats and assaults on UN peacekeepers are unacceptable,” von der Leyen tweeted late Friday.
UN forces, which separate the Cypriot forces from the Turkish army which invaded the island in 1974, on Friday morning blocked Turkish Cypriot construction workers who were building a road near the village of Pyla/Pile that encroached on the UN-enforced buffer zone. The zone divides the southern half of the island, which is controlled by the authorities of the Republic of Cyprus from the zone occupied by the Turklish army.
Video shown in local and international media showed bulldozers picking up UN vehicles and tossing them across the landscape. Clashes reportedly left three UN personnel — two British and one Slovak national — seriously wounded and hositalised.
“Threats to the safety of U.N. peacekeepers and damage to U.N. property are unacceptable and constitute a serious crime under international law which will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” the UN mission to Cyprus said on Friday.
“The EU also calls on the Turkish Cypriot side to respect the UN mission’s mandate in the buffer zone and refrain from actions that escalate tensions,” von der Leyen said in her tweet.
The British, French and US representations in Nicosia released a joint statement demanding that all construction in the buffer zone cease and calling for the resumption of negotiations between the Turkish and Greek sides.
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