UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres has condemned an assault by Turkish Cypriot security forces on UN peacekeepers servicing the divided Mediterranean island.
Guterres, in a statement by his spokesperson, Stéphane Dujarric, said several members of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) had been injured while UN vehicles had also been damaged inside the buffer zone that divided the Turkish Cypriot north and Greek Cypriot south.
He said the peacekeepers had been preventing unauthorised construction work in the Pyla/Pile area, “in accordance with their mandate” provided by the UN Security Council.
According to news reports, Turkish Cypriot bulldozers moved in to clear UN vehicles, bollards and barbed wires placed in the buffer zone.
The reports said three UNFICYP personnel required hospital treatment following the assault, including one who had been kicked to the ground.
UNFICYP also condemned the attack, saying that threats to the safety of UN peacekeepers and damage to UN property were “unacceptable and constitute a serious crime under international law, which will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
The secretary-general urged the Turkish Cypriot side “to respect the authority of UNFICYP as mandated by the Security Council and to withdraw all personnel and machinery from the UN buffer zone immediately.
He also called on the Turkish Cypriot side “to constructively re-engage with UNFICYP to find a mutually agreeable way forward in the Pyla/Pile area.”
The tensions result from a plan by Turkish Cypriot authorities to build a new road that includes an area under UN control, according to news reports.
Since a de facto ceasefire between the two sides on the island in August 1974, UNFICYP has supervised ceasefire lines provided humanitarian assistance and maintained the buffer zone between Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot forces.
The secretary-general also reiterated his “long-standing call on the parties to refrain from taking any unilateral actions that may raise tensions and compromise finding a mutually acceptable way forward.”