WASHINGTON, DC — On August 18, 2023, Turkish Cypriot military and police personnel launched an attack on United Nations peacekeepers who were blocking an illegal construction project in the U.N.-controlled buffer zone on the island of Cyprus. The American Hellenic Institute strongly condemns this egregious attack and calls for those who participated in this unacceptable violation of the rule of law to be held responsible.
The attack came in the wake of warnings by the U.N. which expressed concern over the unauthorized project being constructed by the “TRNC.” According to the U.N., there was no agreement that allowed such a project which intruded into the area of the neutral buffer zone. The day before the incident, the U.N. issued a statement that announced that the “UNFICYP [United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus] warned against unauthorized construction activities inside the UN buffer zone and underlined the importance of respecting the mission’s mandated authority.”
Despite this, Turkish Cypriot forces continued their illegal construction, prompting the U.N. to deploy peacekeepers to prevent any further encroachment into the internationally protected buffer zone. These peacekeepers were then attacked by Turkish Cypriot forces involved in the project.
According to the Associated Press, “Some peacekeepers suffered blows to the face as they linked arms to push back the advancing Turkish Cypriots,” who also damaged U.N. vehicles and defensive structures by plowing them with their bulldozers. Reuters reported that “a spokesperson for the U.N. mission said three peacekeepers were seriously injured and required hospitalization.” They noted that the attacking forces were “personnel in Turkish Cypriot police and military uniforms.”
World Responds With Unified Denunciation
Global condemnation of the attack quickly followed from world leaders, governments, and the public, including denunciations from the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, and others. The United Nations specifically stated, “Threats to the safety of UN peacekeepers and damage to UN property are unacceptable and constitute a serious crime under international law which will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
Read the full response from the United Nations here.
The United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the United States Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues also issued their own independent statements of condemnation.
In response, the internationally unrecognized “TRNC Foreign Minister” Tahsin Ertuğruloğlu called the condemnation of the attack a “conspiracy” and indicated further attempts to continue the construction project would be attempted. According to reporting, the internationally unrecognized “TRNC President” Ersin Tatar stated to Turkish media that “We are determined to complete this road.” However, UNFICYP spokesman Aleem Siddique stated to the Associated Press that the U.N. would continue to “block or frustrate construction of the road by nonviolent means.”
AHI President Nick Larigakis issued the following statement condemning the attack:
“This provocative and dangerous attack on U.N. peacekeepers is absolutely unacceptable. AHI sends its prayers to all those injured, and we hope they will have a good recovery.
“Incidents such as this clearly demonstrate why immediate global action is needed to peacefully reunify Cyprus by ending the illegal occupation of the country. We cannot allow events like this to continue to occur, as they carry the risk of easily spiraling into larger conflicts that threaten the safety and security of the entire region.
“It should be noted that President Erdoğan has yet to condemn this attack, which demonstrates Turkey’s unwillingness to uphold the rule of law. “TRNC President” Ersin Tatar is well-known for his open subservience to President Erdogan and the Turkish government, and given this close relationship, it is no surprise that there has not been any denunciation of the violence that occurred, yet it is still disappointing to see Turkey continue to turn a blind eye to injustice.
“The United Nations had already warned that this illegal construction project was unauthorized, yet as it has been demonstrated time and time again, the internationally unrecognized “TRNC” also does not respect the rule of law. Accordingly, the world must act to ensure that those responsible for this attack are brought to justice. The rule of law must always be upheld – this is the only way we can achieve peace in Cyprus.”