The UN Green Line: 41 years of ‘peace’ that stabilizes or normalises an ‘abnormal’ situation?*

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By Titina Loizidou

*This speech was presented by Titina Loizidou at a debate co-organised by the Cypriot Puzzle, under the auspices of the Cyprus Circle. The motion of the debate was: “Is the UN playing a positive role towards the solution of the Cyprus Problem?”

First of all I would like to thank the members of the First Annual Cyprus Circle for inviting me to this debate. I would especially like to thank Dimitris Economou for proposing this subject which I feel is of great importance. It is not accidental that this debate coincides with the resumption of the talks which are under the auspices of the United Nations.

I come from Kyrenia which as you all know is a town in a lovely setting on the northern coast of Cyprus. I grew up in upper Kyrenia, next to the predominantly Turkish Cypriot neighbourhood in Dr Spyro’s house, my grandfather’s house which was open to all communities. I consider myself lucky to have been part of the generation that experienced the coexistence of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. The period when Greek and Turkish Cypriots were spread all over the island “like raisins and dates in a fruit cake”.

Sadly I am also part of the generation that has seen my country slowly but steadily being divided and the buffer zone or the green line (which is not an environmental term) becoming part of everybody’s everyday life, – defining and limiting our communication with what I regrettably find myself referring to as the ‘other side’.

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The past peaceful coexistence of the two communities, reflected through my life in Kyrenia, which was never divided, has always been a guideline for objecting to the division of the island.

I am going to talk about the Green Line which is one of the major concerns of United Nations in Cyprus. The creation of the green line took place in four chronological phases.
The Mason-Dixon Line 1956-1958:
I vaguely remember as a child way back in the late fifties (1956-1958) during the EOKA struggle, feeling uncomfortable when visiting my grandmother in the old city of Nicosia. I could not really understand why we could no longer buy the lovely souvlakia outside Agia Sofia – Semilye mosque or the pastourma my father liked so much. It was then that for the first time in Cyprus there was inter-communal fighting…. and violence. Not really understanding the issues involved, the only way I could find consolation was to imagine that the only solution to that underlying feeling of fear was to find an island away from Cyprus and live peacefully.

I could not really comprehend the concerns, but the map of Cyprus in the street outside my grandfather’s house in Kyrenia, drawn (perhaps by young T.C.) using chalk with a line through the island, made me understand what was being discussed by members of my family – that Turkey was claiming the partition of Cyprus. I then understood that the violence between Greek and Turkish Cypriots was over the issue of Enosis and Taxim. Greek Cypriots fought against the British for the liberation of Cyprus, some EOKA fighters fought against some Turkish Cypriot members of the police force who had given evidence in trials of members of EOKA followed by retaliation by Turkish Cypriots against Greek Cypriots, properties and so on; I could feel the anxiety and the uncertainty. And there was bloodshed, so security was very important.

The British set up a barricade across the old city of Nicosia, (the Mason–Dixon line) separating for the first time the Greek and Turkish sector which was almost in the same position as the Green Line created later in 1963. A large number of Greek Cypriots left the northern suburbs of the city. Security had to be ensured however and for the first time the raisins, the Christians, and the dates, the Muslims, of the fruit cake started to separate. Was this the first declaration that the two communities would not live together? Was this ‘scar’, the very first ‘division’ to have a lasting effect?

A school girl then, I was very proud of the struggle for the freedom of Cyprus. For me the struggle of the Cypriots against the British was a heroic action, however I could not understand how my Turkish Cypriot neighbours or my Turkish Cypriot English teacher could be an ‘enemy’. I could never think of them like that.

The Green Line – 30th December 1963
The British Truce Force – Joint Force Commander General Peter Young:
The constitutional crisis of 1963 (three years after the independence of the Cyprus Republic, member of the United Nations and the Council of Europe), ended with the withdrawal of the Turkish Cypriot Members of Parliament and civil servants, police force and army from the government positions. These events were followed by the subsequent tragic events of the fighting, the loss of life and properties, the displacement of people and the concentration of the Turkish Cypriots in the predominantly Turkish Cypriot sectors of the main cities (Nicosia, Famagusta, Paphos & Limassol) manned by the Turkish soldiers of TURDIK, which became the Turkish Cypriot enclaves.

The threat of the territorial integrity of Cyprus by an imminent Turkish intervention/invasion and the responsibility of the Cyprus Government to maintain peace and security amongst the population of Cyprus led the Cyprus Government to request the British (British Truce Force) first for help. Using a green pen General Young outlined a partition line in the cease fire areas….. Safety was and is paramount; the Turkish Cypriots are afraid that the Greek Cypriots will swallow them up and the Greek Cypriots fear a possible Turkish invasion which will eliminate them by military occupation ……. the green line reinforced the statement by the Turkish Cypriots that the two communities could not live together!!

The persistence of the Government of the Cyprus Republic to proceed with a Recourse to the United Nations Security Council (after subsequent discussions of the Cyprus Republic between the British and USA) and based on the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations leads to the establishment of an International Peace Keeping force by the United Nations.

In Article 2 & 5 of Security Council Resolution 186 (1964) we read the following very important articles:

(2) (The United Nations Security Council) Asks the Government of Cyprus, which has the responsibility for the maintenance and restoration of law and order, to take additional measures necessary to stop violence and bloodshed in Cyprus.

(5) Recommends that the function of the Force should be, in the interest of preserving the international peace and security, to use its best efforts to prevent a recurrence of fighting and, as necessary, to contribute to the maintenance and restoration of law and order and a return to normal conditions;

UNIFICYP Green line and enclaves:
UNFICYP was set up in Cyprus in March 1964 with a mandate to stay for three months in order to prevent further fighting between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities on the island and restore normal conditions.

In the 1963-1964 crisis, the raisins and dates of the fruit cake were separated in all the towns of Cyprus. The Nicosia – Kioneli enclave had a concentration of dates; the Kyrenia fruit cake was mixed. However the drive from Kyrenia to Nicosia with the UN convoy to ensure the safety of the Greek Cypriots through the Turkish military controlled area – with no access to the historic core of the old city of Nicosia and consequently to my favourite souvlakia shop – was something that makes one question the way the mandate of UNFICYP was interpreted – to contribute to the maintenance and restoration of law and order and a return to normal conditions.

But what are normal conditions? Rightly so, the Turkish Cypriots had the right of free movement in and out of the enclaves, but was not my and the other Greek Cypriots right of free movement interrupted? Whereas ‘peace was maintained’, was the line a reflection of sustaining the claim that the two communities could not live together or, was there more to come…..?

Cease fire line 1974:
The UNFICYP responsibilities and forces expanded in 1974 following the coup by the military junta of Greece and the Turkish invasion, with more than 40,000 troops on the island.

The enclave extending from Nicosia to Kioneli all the way to Kyrenia formed the basis for the consolidation of the Turkish invasion which forced the Greek Cypriots who lived in the northern part of Cyprus and were by far the majority of the population to leave.

The line now extends over 180 kilometres across the island. The United Nations in Cyprus is one of the longest-running UN Peacekeeping missions globally…51 or 41 years of ‘peace’ that stabilizes or normalises an ‘abnormal’ situation. The UN peacemakers, the Blue Berets, have become part of the Cypriot everyday life. The dead ends of many streets of Nicosia, and across the line perpetuate the aggression, the prejudice, the mistrust, the luck of communication, the psychological division and the racism between all Cypriots.

The restrictions imposed militarily on all Cypriots were challenged by the non-violent protests against the dividing line including by the movement ‘Women Walk Home’. In physically rejecting the line which divides the two communities, the “Women Walk Home” organized a number of marches to give the message of rejecting the line and the de facto division of the island.

The UNIFICYP mandate to ‘contribute to the maintenance and restoration of law and order and a return to normal conditions could be interpreted as the UN soldiers allowing themselves to be used as a buffer for the Turkish army controlled areas. One could claim that by maintaining peace – the buffer zone – they are in fact protecting the territorial integrity of the Turkish occupied area by denying access to Greek Cypriots to their homes. The de facto division is perpetuated…..

Cyprus acceded to the EU on 1 May 2004 as a de facto divided country after the failure of the referendum. The European Union (EU) has committed to a speedy resumption of negotiations for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem under the auspices of the UN and the re-unification of the island.

The whole of the island is part of the EU. However, in the northern part of the island, in the areas in which the Government of the Republic of Cyprus does not exercise effective control, EU legislation is suspended in line with Protocol 10 of the Accession Treaty 2003 (OJ L 236 – 23.9.2003). In the event of a solution to the Cyprus problem this suspension shall be lifted. It is noted that the suspension does not affect the personal rights of Turkish Cypriots as EU citizens. They are citizens of a Member State, the Republic of Cyprus, even though they may live in the areas not under government control.

The Green Line – Crossing points regulations
In my view whereas since 2003 we have the opening of several crossing points, another de facto situation has been formed; controlled free movement, regulations etc. The line is still there….. It is not an external line of the EU as it does not constitute an external border, but it is a line between the two communities. So, special rules concerning the crossing of goods, services and persons needed to be established.

So is the UNFICYP contributing to the maintenance and restoration of law and order and a return to normal conditions? And what are these normal conditions? And are they dictated by the de facto control of a large part of Cyprus by the Turkish military? If yes, what kind of peace is it that stabilizes or normalises an ‘abnormal’ situation?

 

Bibliography:
Stella Soulioti, Fettered Independence – Cyprus, 1878 – 1964
(Minnesota Mediterranean and East European Monographs)
Various press articles 1955 – 1974

“Raisins and dates in a fruit cake”: The metaphor is taken from Charles Foley’s book ‘Legacy of Strife: Cyprus from rebellion to civil war’ 1964, p.87: (Cyprus was)
‘an ethnographical fruit cake in which the Greek and Turkish currants were mixed up in every town and village and often in every street’

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