Telegraph wrote:Watch: British peacekeepers injured after clashes with Turkish troops in Cyprus
The two soldiers were deployed in the UN-patrolled buffer zone to prevent Turkish Cypriots building an illegal road in the area
Two British soldiers were injured in clashes with Turkish Cypriot security forces in the UN-patrolled buffer zone that divides Cyprus on Friday.
The two soldiers were serving with the United Nations and were part of a rapid reaction force that was deployed to the buffer zone to prevent Turkish Cypriots from building an illegal road in the area.
A Slovak soldier was also hurt. All three were taken to hospital for injuries including head wounds and a broken ankle after a dramatic escalation of tensions in the former British colony.
Around a dozen British soldiers, along with a similar number of Slovak troops, were punched and kicked by Turkish Cypriot police and soldiers. The peacekeepers linked arms to try to push the Turkish Cypriots back but several were punched in the face. The Turkish Cypriots used bulldozers to push aside UN vehicles, which were badly damaged, as well as cement bollards and barbed wire.
The violence erupted over an attempt by Turkish Cypriot work crews to build a road linking the village of Arsos, in the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north, with the mixed Greek Cypriot/Turkish Cypriot village of Pyla, part of the Greek Cypriot south.
The clashes happened less than a mile from the perimeter of Dhekelia military area, one of two British sovereign bases on the island.
The road would give Turkish Cypriots direct access to Pyla by circumventing a checkpoint on the northern fringe of the British military base, one of two zones that the UK retained after Cyprus gained independence in 1960.
“This was a very serious incident,” Aleem Siddique, spokesman for the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), told the Telegraph. “It happened inside the UN buffer zone, less than a kilometre from the perimeter of the British sovereign base. We’re very concerned and we have called on the Turkish Cypriot side to refrain from any actions that could escalate tensions further.”
In a statement, the UN peacekeeping force said that attacks on UN soldiers constitute “a serious crime under international law which will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law”.
Best efforts to maintain the status quo
UN soldiers will continue to block Turkish Cypriot efforts to build the road. “We are mandated to use our best efforts to maintain the status quo,” said Mr Siddique.
The violence used by the Turkish Cypriot forces provoked fury among Greek Cypriots and was widely condemned by the international community.
The British High Commission in Cyprus issued a joint statement with the French and American embassies, expressing “serious concern” over the attempt to build the road and condemning the attacks on UN peacekeepers as “completely unacceptable”.
The Cypriot government described the incident as “an attempt at a very serious violation of the status quo”.
Turkish Cypriot authorities blamed the UN peacekeepers for the confrontation, calling their actions “unacceptable” and dismissing the UNFICYP statement as “unfounded allegations”.
They said the UN force should “immediately cease” its efforts to physically obstruct construction of a “humanitarian” project.
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