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Areas of Cyprus frozen in time tourists never see

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In an airport once filled with the sounds of holidaymakers, there is now only an eerie silence.

Nicosia International Airport was once a popular destination in Cyprus, with jets on the tarmac and tourists in the departure lounge.

Some of those tourists were waiting for a flight on July 23, 1974, when Turkish forces launched a series of air raids on the airport in response to a Greek coup on the island.

Standing in the decaying departure lounge today, there is seemingly little evidence of the fighting that took place 40 years ago.

But if you look closely enough, you will find bullet holes and barbed wire fences.

Posters advertising the excitement of continental holidays and cigarettes still hang on the walls, albeit garnished with 40 years of pigeon droppings.

Out on the runway, a Cyprus Airways Trident passenger jet sits on the tarmac, having been unable to make it out of the area in time.

The airport and its surroundings are just a small part of a large buffer zone which is today being patrolled by soldiers from the Portsmouth area.

The zone, also known as the green line, is sandwiched between the Turkish and Greek militaries which occupy the island.

When a ceasefire was agreed in 1974, everything within the buffer zone became a protected area, trapping houses, shops, and the airport inside.

In another part of Nicosia, you will find abandoned shopping arcades and housing blocks.

Photographs, cans of drink, and even brand new vehicles sit in the exact same spaces they occupied 40 years ago when their owners fled the fighting, assuming they would one day be able to return.

But it’s the job of troops from the Princess of Wales Royal Regiment Third Battalion to ensure the protected area is kept as it is until a peace agreement can be reached.

Standing in the

abandoned airport, Second Lieutenant Connor Bowdidge, 24, from Warsash, says: ‘At the time, people were coming here for their flights to go on holiday and it was very much a normal day – until the Turkish intervention and paratroopers started landing just over the perimeter. You can imagine people going on their holidays in the departure lounge as bombers started coming in and bombing the runway to prevent Greek reinforcements landing.

‘The airport was being shot out and there were plenty of strikes on the buildings.

‘It’s quite strange being here now, but in 1974 it was a very different situation and a very different atmosphere.’

Last week was the 50th anniversary of the formation of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Cyprus.

On the anniversary day, soldiers gathered for a short ceremony in the morning.

A statement was read out to those who gathered from secretary-general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon.

It said: ‘On March 4, 1964, the Security Council mandated UNFICYP to contribute to a return to normal conditions following violence and bloodshed between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities in Cyprus.

‘Over the past 50 years, UNFICYP has played a crucial role in preventing a recurrence of fighting and contributing to the resolution of issues that affect the everyday lives of Cypriots across the island.

‘On this special occasion, I wish to express my gratitude to the 32 countries that have contributed either troops or police or both to the mission and their peacekeepers, but also pay tribute to the 184 peacekeepers who lost their lives in support of peace in Cyprus.

‘I am confident this 50th anniversary will provide much needed impetus to the ongoing negotiations for a comprehensive settlement of the long-lasting Cyprus problem.’abandoned airport, Second Lieutenant Connor Bowdidge, 24, from Warsash, says: ‘At the time, people were coming here for their flights to go on holiday and it was very much a normal day – until the Turkish intervention and paratroopers started landing just over the perimeter. You can imagine people going on their holidays in the departure lounge as bombers started coming in and bombing the runway to prevent Greek reinforcements landing.

‘The airport was being shot out and there were plenty of strikes on the buildings.

‘It’s quite strange being here now, but in 1974 it was a very different situation and a very different atmosphere.’

Last week was the 50th anniversary of the formation of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Cyprus.

On the anniversary day, soldiers gathered for a short ceremony in the morning.

A statement was read out to those who gathered from secretary-general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon.

It said: ‘On March 4, 1964, the Security Council mandated UNFICYP to contribute to a return to normal conditions following violence and bloodshed between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities in Cyprus.

‘Over the past 50 years, UNFICYP has played a crucial role in preventing a recurrence of fighting and contributing to the resolution of issues that affect the everyday lives of Cypriots across the island.

‘On this special occasion, I wish to express my gratitude to the 32 countries that have contributed either troops or police or both to the mission and their peacekeepers, but also pay tribute to the 184 peacekeepers who lost their lives in support of peace in Cyprus.

‘I am confident this 50th anniversary will provide much needed impetus to the ongoing negotiations for a comprehensive settlement of the long-lasting Cyprus problem.’

LONG-RUNNING CONFLICT

THE Republic of Cyprus became an independent state in 1960, and a member of the United Nations shortly after.

Cyprus, Greece, Turkey, and the United Kingdom entered into a treaty guaranteeing the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the nation and establishing a constitution.

However, it did not take long for problems to arise. Tension between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities continued to grow, until the eventual outbreak of violence in 1963.

A few months later, the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus was established to try and prevent a reoccurrence of the fighting.

Ten years later, a coup d’état took place by Greek Cypriot and Greek elements who wanted Cyprus to unify with Greece. This was followed with military intervention by Turkish forces, who responded by occupying northern part of the island.

After a ceasefire was agreed, a buffer zone was established between the two forces, and the job of the peacekeeping force became to police it.

For almost four decades now, the Turks and Greeks have jealously scrutinised each other’s every move, while British troops are sandwiched between them imposing the status quo to enable politicians to advance peace talks.

For although the fighting stopped decades ago, no peace treaty has been signed. Today, conflict materialises mostly in the form of stone throwing across the narrower parts of the buffer zone.

 

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