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Media Watch 2003

06 June 2003
Source: Cyprus Weekly
Author: Menelaos Hadjicostis
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Weekly of Nicosia on 6 June 2003.
Government criticises UN as Turks continue war of nerves in Strovilia


THE government has criticised the United Nations for not doing enough to reverse a three-year-old Turkish advance on Strovilia and allowing Turkish forces to wage a war of nerves on a handful of Greek Cypriots living there. 

President Tassos Papadopoulos said: “The Greek Cypriot side has for the past six weeks made all the necessary protests to the UN and countries taking part in the peacekeeping force as well as the United Kingdom.

“It’s not easy to accept this extension of occupation that the Turks are trying to enforce,” he said. 

Strovilia took centre stage once again after Turkish forces began consolidating their hold there by widening the road through the cluster of Greek Cypriot homes, removing electricity poles, cutting down an orange grove and building a parking lot.

Local officials said that the occupation regime had cut off the government-supplied telephone service, power and water to the homes of eight Greek Cypriots living in Strovilia to force them to apply for services from the north.

Hostile

Turkish forces have not budged from positions they took up in June, 2000, when they moved 300 metres inside Strovilia, a strip of land no bigger than a football pitch, sandwiched between the eastern-most fringes of Dhekelia British Base and the occupied areas.

It was the first Turkish advance since 1974, and the UN labelled it a “serious breach” of the post-invasion status quo along the cease-fire line and it was considered a hostile action by the government.

In his latest report to the UN Security Council seeking approval for a renewal of UNFICYP’s mandate in Cyprus, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said it was “regrettable” that no progress had been made in restoring the status quo in Strovilia.

Lukewarm

He noted that Turkish Cypriot authorities had started using a Greek Cypriot house to man the newly-established crossing point at Strovilia, one of four through which Greek and Turkish Cypriots can cross the cease-fire line after Rauf Denktash eased travel restrictions in April.

Some suggested Greek Cypriots could voluntarily boycott the Strovilia control point in a show of solidarity with Strovilia residents. 

But Papadopoulos said the government was unhappy with Annan’s lukewarm Strovilia reference and would try to push for a stronger Security Council condemnation of Turkish actions. 

“Efforts are being made to include a reference in the Security Council resolution, because what is included in (Annan’s) report doesn’t satisfy us. It should say that provocations by Turkish forces not only continue, but have escalated,” said Papadopoulos.

Foreign Minister George Iacovou yesterday said Turkish forces cannot be allowed to further strengthen their grip on Strovilia and instructions have gone out to Cyprus’ permanent UN mission to spread the message among all Security Council members.

“Turkish provocations are completely unacceptable,” Iacovou told reporters after a meeting with US Ambassador Michael Klosson, British High Commissioner Lyn Parker and UN Chief of Mission in Cyprus, Zbigniew Wlosowicz.

Iacovou summoned the three diplomats to the Foreign Ministry in an attempt to rally foreign political backing for restoring the status quo in Strovilia.

Initiatives

He said all three accepted the government’s position that Strovilia is not situated in the Turkish-occupied areas.

“Since Great Britain and the US assure us they share our views, they should undertake some initiatives so that the UN Security Council resolution reflects reality,” said Iacovou.

In his strongest statement yet, Parker said the British government was “disappointed” by Turkish actions in Strovilia and have long supported government protests. 

“We will continue to make our displeasure known to Turkish authorities and to authorities in the north,” said Parker.

Wlosowicz echoed Parker, saying the UN are “displeased” with the situation and will spell that out in contacts with the Turkish Cypriot leadership.

“There are a great many things happening on the island and I hope that the Strovilia issue won’t disturb them,” said Wlosowicz, adding that UN officials, from top-down are monitoring the situation closely.

“We hope the issue is re-evaluated and that at some point the status quo is restored,” he added.

Government officials said Turkish actions in Strovilia are proof of Rauf Denktash’s unswerving goal to win recognition for his breakaway state despite an April 23 move to ease travel restrictions across the divide. 

British Bases officials have scouted the Strovilia area to size up the extent of work being done there but Dhekelia Base police dismissed reports that Turkish forces had encroached on Bases territory.

Kisos leader Yiannakis Omirou heaped blame on the British government for “passively” watching the “pirate” actions of the occupation regime and on the UN for failing to thwart the Turkish advance.

Talks to strike a deal on a Turkish pull-back from Strovilia remain deadlocked over the last three years. The advance was in reprisal for a May, 2000 UN Security Council resolution renewing UNFICYP’s mandate, which omitted a reference to the need for Turkish Cypriot consent for peacekeeping activity in the occupied north.

In 1974, advancing Turkish invasion forces mistakenly thought Strovilia lay inside British Bases territory and stopped just short.

When Turkish troops realised this in the weeks after their advance ended, they tried to push into Strovilia but were thwarted by UN peacekeepers, who said the area was under their control."