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Greek Cypriots Protest Turks

November 15, 1997

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) _ Riot police turned away hundreds of Greek Cypriot refugees Saturday, blocking their attempts to drive vehicles laden with belongings and festooned with banners to their homes in the Turkish-occupied north.

The refugees didn’t expect to be allowed in, and the motor rally was mainly aimed at highlighting their protest on the 14th anniversary of the proclamation of the breakaway Turkish Cypriot state.

One white-haired woman, Panayiota Pavlou, drove a large tractor with a sign on the back saying ``I want to plow and sow my fields again.″

But her tractor, like the other 150 vehicles in the convoy, was stopped at barricades manned by Greek Cypriot policemen in front of the U.N. buffer zone that splits Cyprus into Greek and Turkish sections.

Police arrested six Greek Cypriots for attempting to break through the buffer zone. Officers scuffled with two agitated women protesters, but otherwise the rally was peaceful.

Cyprus has been divided since Turkey invaded and occupied the northern third in 1974 in the wake of an abortive coup by supporters of union with Greece. Some 200,000 Greek Cypriots fled their homes in the north during the partition.

The breakaway Turkish Cypriot state proclaimed on Nov. 15, 1983, is only recognized by Turkey, which has rejected U.N. resolutions calling for the withdrawal of the 35,000 Turkish troops and 50,000 mainland Turks settled in the north. The resolution also supports the return of the refugees.

On the other side of the buffer zone, Turkish Cypriots celebrated with a military parade, which was attended by Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit and other Turkish officials. As premier, Ecevit had ordered the 1974 invasion.

At the U.N. checkpoint Saturday, the Greek Cypriot refugees asked an officer for protection so they could continue their ``drive to return.″

``This is what is demanded by the Security Council resolutions,″ Aris Hadjipanayiotou told the U.N. officer, who turned down the request.

The refugees delivered an appeal to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, protesting the failure of the Security Council to implement its resolutions.

``After waiting vainly for more than 23 years ... we decided we cannot wait any longer, and decided to try to drive back ourselves,″ said the protest letter.

After two hours, the refugees dispersed, singing songs and chanting slogans.

U.N.-sponsored negotiations for the island’s reunification have failed to make headway for years. The Greek Cypriots insist that Cyprus be reunited as a bi-communal state, whereas the Turkish Cypriots demand recognition of their separate state.

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