Greek Cypriot farmers have organised a march to the Astromeritis/Guzelyurt checkpoint today, 7th December to demand the return of their land which lies in the UN Buffer Zone.
According to the General Secretary of AKEL’s farmer’s union EKA, Panicos Hambas, following the removal of mines in the buffer zone it was agreed that Greek Cypriots would be allowed to cultivate the land up to 200 metres from the Turkish guard post.
“The UN is responsible for the buffer zone and the property in that area belongs to Greek Cypriots, but the Turkish army, in a very well planned move, has violated that agreement and controls large areas of land from Achna [Famagusta region] to Petra [Guzelyurt region],” he said.
In response to the threat of the march, the TRNC’s Foreign Ministry, on Thursday, called on the South Cyprus government to respect the status of the UN Controlled Buffer Zone and to refrain from actions that will create tensions.
The Ministry warned the Greek Cypriot farmers, who are planning to go to their fields at the UN buffer zone that all necessary legal measures will be taken, if they attempt to do so.
The statement also said that the TRNC attaches great importance to the preservation of the peaceful atmosphere on the island at a time when full-fledged negotiations for a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus problem are expected to begin. It added that any increase in tension in the buffer zone will only harm relations between the two sides and the political atmosphere on the island.
The Ministry’s statement went on to say that the TRNC’s view is that, good will on the part of both leaders, will motivate Cypriots on both sides to support the conclusion of a peace settlement.
Also voicing its expectations from the United Nations, the Foreign Ministry said that it expected the UN to take all precautionary measures within its area of control and jurisdiction in the buffer zone to prevent the escalation of tensions.
The farmers’ union leader said, “I call on everyone, all the patriots to be there, it is an original event and we owe it to all those who have ploughed what is now occupied land.
It will be a peaceful march but we will go with our ploughs, sprinklers, harrows and all of our agricultural implements, as well as fertilisers and seeds so we can re-plough our occupied lands”.
Hambas added that drilling work is taking place by the Turks within the buffer-zone with the Electricity Authority (EAC) supplying the power at a time when there have been a number of power cuts in the South and farmers are obliged to pay their bills fully and promptly or face court action.
“The defence minister agreed with our arguments and said that our own research over a number of days within the buffer zone proved that we were correct and that discussions would begin with the UN so the land could be returned to the owners,” he said.
They added that their main aim was “a fair and viable solution, which ensures that each Cypriot will plough the land that gave birth to them and together, Greek and Turkish Cypriots, Maronites, Armenians, and Latins, will feed the people in a united country with a united economy.”
It is not the first time that Turkish forces have moved forward from the ceasefire line.
On June 30, 2000, Turkish troops violated the status quo in Strovilia, a small village inhabited by Greek Cypriots in the Famagusta district, and have refused to go back despite repeated calls from the UN.