Barbed wire near border sparks concern
Taken from this week's issue
By GÜLDEREN ÖZTANSU
THE United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (Unficyp) has said it has “concerns” over the Greek Cypriot authorities’ decision to lay razor wire across land on the southern side of the buffer zone.
The Associated Press (AP) news agency reported on Tuesday that the barrier had been installed some 30km west of the capital in a bid to stem the flow of migrants and refugees seeking to cross into South Cyprus from the TRNC.
In a statement to Cyprus Today, Unficyp spokesman Aleem Siddique said yesterday: “We can confirm that Unficyp has been informed of construction activity, namely the installment of barbed wire fencing, in some areas of the buffer zone.
“We are engaging with the authorities to explain and address the [UN] Mission’s concerns.
“Unficyp appreciates the authorities’ concerns in relation to undetected movement across the buffer zone, and has stepped up its patrolling in this regard.
“Maintaining security across the buffer zone and keeping the situation calm remain top priorities for Unficyp.”
The Greek Cypriots’ move was criticised by the pro-Cyprus unification group Unite Cyprus Now, which tweeted: “We expect authorities to spend as much effort on reducing barriers as they do on building them.”
Criticism also came from the Greek Cypriot communist party Akel, with reports quoting party spokesperson Stefanos Stefanou as saying that the 11km of barbed wire fencing does not serve the purpose of controlling migration, sends “dangerous” political messages and benefits Turkey and the “fans of division”.
“The decision to install razor wire along the Green Line raises huge questions in reference to border demarcation and deepening the division of our homeland,” he said.
“It also causes problems for residents of the local communities who are doing agricultural activities within the dead zone.
“Immigration certainly poses a problem that needs to be addressed and surveillance of the ‘Green Line’ is necessary. But this can be done in other ways and means that do not signify borders between [two] states.
“We also point out that nowhere in the world has immigration been solved by erecting walls, fences and barbed wire. These are the ideas of [former US President Donald] Trump which the [the Greek Cypriot] government is obviously copying.
“In view of the upcoming informal Cyprus talks and the Turkish side’s effort to put division on the table, the last thing the [Greek] Cypriot government should do is take actions that can be interpreted as accepting the de facto division of our homeland.”
South Cyprus Interior Minister Nicos Nouris defended the move, saying the razor wire fence is “not a border” and does not reinforce what he referred to as the “occupation”, according to reports in the South.
“This decision was made very carefully, so that this action does not create a problem for the work of farmers [in the area known as Astromeritis] and of course for those living in remote areas. We are extremely careful.
“The United Nations, the European Union and the ambassadors of various countries have been notified of this action.”
A TRNC Foreign Ministry spokesman told Cyprus Today that the issue had been discussed during an “important” meeting yesterday with Unficyp officials.
“As of now, the razor wire in question is not in the buffer zone but in [the South’s] own territory. The UN is closely monitoring the situation as it is of very high importance that this activity does not take place inside the buffer zone.”
Meanwhile a Greek Cypriot TV crew claimed that they had been able to use a plank of wood to press down on the razor wire and cross into the buffer zone with little effort in just a few seconds.