Cyprus, Greece Seek International Help for Divided Island
NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) _ The Greek premier appealed Saturday for an international effort to force Turkey to withdraw its troops from Cyprus, where deadly clashes in the buffer zone dividing the island have renewed tensions between the two sides.
``It is time the international community at last fulfills its responsibility and exerts the necessary pressures on Turkey,″ said Costas Simitis, visiting the Mediterranean island in a show of support for Greek Cypriots.
``The line dividing the island is a monument of shame,″ Simitis said.
The trip comes after two confrontations in the past week in the U.N.-patrolled zone dividing the island into a Greek Cypriot south and Turkish Cypriot north. Turkish troops and their supporters killed two Greek Cypriots protesters, and another 50 people were injured.
Turkey maintains about 35,000 troops on northern Cyprus. Greek Cypriots consider it an occupation force, while Turkish Cypriots say without it they would be swamped by the ethnic Greek majority, who account for around 80 percent of the population.
Turkish Foreign Minister Tansu Ciller made a similar trip last week to bolster morale on the Turkish side, warning that Turkey would not hesitate to use force to defend its half of the island.
Simitis said he talked with Greek Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides to ``plan the next steps in the political efforts for ending the Turkish occupation.″
Earlier Saturday, Cypriot Foreign Minister Alecos Michaelides said the Turkish government must be held accountable for the killing and wounding of ``peaceful unarmed demonstrators.″
In both battles, on Aug. 11 and Wednesday, Greek Cypriot protesters stormed into the buffer zone. The protesters threw stones at the Turkish forces, who responded with gunfire.
``We call on the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and all the other interested parties to create the momentum to end the present explosive situation,″ Michaelides said.
The island was calm Saturday after thousands of Greek Cypriots attended the Friday night funeral for one of the demonstrators. Troops and police remained on alert on both sides of the island’s dividing line.
The recent bloodshed has redoubled tensions between Greece and Turkey, two NATO members whose relations have long been strained by friction over Cyrus and territorial disputes in the Aegean Sea.
The U.N. headquarters in Cyprus on Saturday ``strongly protested the totally unwarranted use of force by Turkish or Turkish Cypriot military personnel.″
In Wednesday’s protests, a Greek Cypriot demonstrator was shot five times while climbing a flagpole in an attempt to tear down the Turkish banner at a Turkish military post on the edge of the buffer zone.
``Turkish or Turkish Cypriot soldiers then proceeded to fire some 25 to 50 rounds indiscriminately into the crowd inside the buffer zone,″ the U.N. statement said.
Cyprus has been unofficially partitioned since Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third in 1974 to protect Turkish Cypriots in the wake of an abortive coup by supporters of union with Greece.
The Greek Cypriot government is internationally recognized, while a breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in the north is recognized only by Ankara.