Why Is Cyprus Still A Divided Country?
The UN in Cyprus
Cyprus may be more famous as a holiday destination than as a conflict zone, but one of the longest and most enduring peacekeeping missions is that of the UN in Cyprus.
For 50 years, the UN has been tasked with managing the conflict between the Republic of Cyprus, internationally recognized and a member of the European Union, and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, an internationally-isolated country only recognized by Turkey. Unfortunately, time has not solved Cyprus’s long running animosity, and today the UN’s ‘blue helmets’ continue to play a critical and unique role on the island.
Nicosia is, in fact, the world’s last divided capital. The Ledra Street border point is the main foot crossing in the center of the old city. It is an unthreatening gateway used by most tourists heading to the Turkish Republic of Cyprus. The smart shops lining the Greek side’s cosmopolitan boulevard flow towards the checkpoint that swiftly deposits you in the heart of a Turkish Bazaar. As you pass, it feels more like the entrance to a tourist attraction than a fault line. However, less than a mile west, things couldn’t be more different. At the Ledra Palace Hotel crossing, the real, unpolished face of the Cyprus can be seen. Lines of barbed wire and tall watchtowers surround a memorial commemorating the death of Tasos Isaak, killed at the crossing during protests in the 1990s. In the middle of the crossing is the UN headquarters in the large, decaying, and grand ex-hotel, Ledra Palace.
The UN in Cyprus’s mission was established after the outbreak of inter-communal violence a few years after Cyprus’s independence from the UK in 1960. Fourteen years later, in response to a coup by the Greek supported Cypriot National Guard, Turkish forces landed on the north coast and, in a matter of months, took control of around 40% of the island. Although the two sides never officially negotiated a cessation of hostilities, the Turkish forces declared a unilateral ceasefire and the battle lines were stopped. A UN Buffer Zone was set up between the armies, who are still in exactly the same positions today as they were 40 years ago… [Continue reading over at Gate 37]