Turkish troops keep Greek Cypriots from lands they've farmed for years - CNA

Turkish troops last week prevented Greek Cypriot farmers from cultivating lands in the buffer zone that they had been farming for years, the state-run Cyprus News Agency (CNA) reported on Monday. 

While details about the incidents remain unclear, the farmers reported being harassed by Turkish soldiers in the buffer zone in the Denia area of the Cypriot capital. Demetris Samuel, a spokesman for Cyprus' Foreign Ministry, said the government was aware of the farmers' complaints. 

“For each separate incident, the Ministry has filed complaints with the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), asking for immediate intervention by the UN peacekeeping force to restore the rights of the farmers so that they can tend to their crops, as well as their safety,” Samuel said.

Denia community leader Christakis Panayiotou said he had received complaints from Greek Cypriot farmers who had been cultivating land in the buffer zone with UNFICYP approval for years, Financial Mirror reported.

UNFICYP is one of the longest-running UN Peacekeeping missions. It was set up in 1964 to prevent further fighting between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities on the island. The island was split in 1974 after a Turkish invasion triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup.

UNFICYP spokesperson Aleem Siddique told Cyprus News Agency that he was aware of one incident on Saturday morning, where a Greek Cypriot farmer walked into an area without authorisation and was asked to leave by UNFICYP personnel.

“The man, who was on foot as I have been told, was asked to leave, which he did without any incident,” the news agency quoted Siddique as saying.

The fields, where the incidents took place, were registered with the Cyprus Agricultural Payments Organisation back in 2014, meaning that Greek Cypriot farmers could tend to their crops on Greek Cypriot-owned land inside the buffer zone as long as they had permission from UNFICYP and paid their dues to the landowners.