30 Υears Αfter the Berlin Wall, Cyprus’ Division Endures (Photos)

In this Tuesday Nov. 5, 2019, a Turkish, left, and a Turkish Cypriot breakaway flags are seen at a guard military post by a U.N sing inside the U.N buffer zone that divided the Greek Cypriot south to the Turkish Cypriots north in divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus. As the world commemorates 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the bullet-riddled sandstone walls of abandoned, crumbling homes and concrete machine gun nests dotting in Cyprus' no-man's land are a reminder of Europe's last divided country. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

NICOSIA— As the world commemorates 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the bullet-riddled sandstone walls of abandoned, crumbling homes and concrete machine gun nests dotting Cyprus’ no man’s land serve as a jarring reminder of another divided capital — the world’s last — on Europe’s southeastern frontier.

The United Nations-controlled buffer zone that slices across the bustling, medieval center of Nicosia is the most visible scar of this Mediterranean island nation’s 45-year ethnic division, brought about in 1974 when Turkey invaded in the wake of a coup mounted by supporters of union with Greece.

Reminiscent of Cold War tensions, Greek Cypriot conscripts still man guard posts on the internationally recognized southern side, opposite Turkish and Turkish Cypriot soldiers looking out from their positions on the island’s northern breakaway part.

In this Tuesday Nov. 5, 2019, a terminal at the abandoned Nicosia airport inside the U.N buffer zone that divided the Greek Cypriot south to the Turkish Cypriots north in divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus. As the world commemorates 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the bullet-riddled sandstone walls of abandoned, crumbling homes and concrete machine gun nests dotting in Cyprus’ no-man’s land are a reminder of Europe’s last divided country. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

Although Cyprus joined the European Union in 2004, only its southern part enjoys full membership benefits.

The buffer zone mostly traverses mountains and farmland along its 180-kilometer (120 mile) length, but it’s at its narrowest along the tight, winding streets of Nicosia where it separates opposing soldiers by only a few meters at some points.

Inside the city, the dividing line isn’t so much a single wall in Berlin’s mold, but rather a patchwork of concrete-filled oil barrels, barbed wire-topped fences and a network of sentry posts built up over decades.

The closest point between the two sides was for 25 years a stretch of road that United Nations peacekeepers had dubbed “Spear Alley.” Only about three meters (10 feet) of road separated armed soldiers crouched behind the sandbagged windows of what were once stately mansions built at the turn of the previous century.

In this Tuesday Nov. 5, 2019, a Canadian flag and a panti on a wall inside an abandoned building inside the U.N buffer zone that divided the Greek Cypriot south to the Turkish Cypriots north in divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus. As the world commemorates 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the bullet-riddled sandstone walls of abandoned, crumbling homes and concrete machine gun nests dotting in Cyprus’ no-man’s land are a reminder of Europe’s last divided country. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

It was that proximity that gave the spot its name, as opposing soldiers at times when tensions still ran high would attach their bayonets to sticks and jab at each other, or hurl objects ranging from Molotov cocktails to urine-filled bottles. Soldiers’ deaths resulted in a 1989 deal for a mutual pullback from the spot.

What’s most striking within the buffer zone is the stillness of the place and the range of wildlife that can be encountered, such as a rare species of barn owl that has been allowed to multiply unmolested by human habitation. That stillness is juxtaposed with the bustle of daily life literally a stone’s throw away.

“Our military peacekeepers play a vital role in liaising on a daily basis with the opposing forces to prevent tensions from arising and becoming international security insurgencies,” said Aleem Siddique, spokesman for the U.N. peacekeeping force.

“Our U.N. police officers liaise with the police authorities on both sides of the island to maintain law and order within the buffer zone. And probably most importantly, our civilian staff are the ones that help bridge the divide to bring the communities together.”

For decades, there was virtually no physical contact between north and south. That ended in 2003 when a political thaw between the sides resulted in the opening of the first of nine crossing points across the buffer zone, and there are efforts to open even more.

In this photo taken on Tuesday Nov. 5, 2019, a U.N peacekeepers walk inside the U.N buffer zone that divides the Greek Cypriot south and the Turkish Cypriot north, in divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus. As the world commemorates 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the bullet-riddled sandstone walls of abandoned, crumbling homes and concrete machine gun nests dotting in Cyprus’ no-man’s land are a reminder of Europe’s last divided country. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

The crossings underscore the gravity of this ongoing conflict, but at the same time throw into question the dividing line’s reason for being.

The political complexities of Cyprus’ division have defied the efforts of five U.N. Secretaries-General and a slew of his special advisers in mediating a reunification agreement.

The latest failed bid occurred in 2017 during high-level talks at a Swiss resort that also brought together the diplomats of Cyprus’ ‘guarantors’ — Greece, Turkey and Britain.

Officials have been trying to pick up the pieces from that effort and get the two sides talking again. U.N. Chief Antonio Guterres will hold talks with the island’s Greek Cypriot president and the leader of the Turkish Cypriots later this month to scope out changes for a resumption of peace talks. That meeting will take place in — where else? — Berlin.

In this photo taken on Tuesday Nov. 5, 2019, an abandoned Cyprus airways aircraft is seen behind the barbed wires at the abandoned Nicosia airport inside the U.N buffer zone that divides the Greek Cypriot south and the Turkish Cypriot north, in divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus. As the world commemorates 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the bullet-riddled sandstone walls of abandoned, crumbling homes and concrete machine gun nests dotting in Cyprus’ no-man’s land are a reminder of Europe’s last divided country. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
In this photo taken on Tuesday Nov. 5, 2019, an abandoned Cyprus airways aircraft at the abandoned Nicosia airport inside the U.N buffer zone that divides the Greek Cypriot south and the Turkish Cypriot north, in divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus. As the world commemorates 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the bullet-riddled sandstone walls of abandoned, crumbling homes and concrete machine gun nests dotting in Cyprus’ no-man’s land are a reminder of Europe’s last divided country. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
In this Thursday Nov. 6, 2019, A Turkish flag is seen through a fence that divided the Greek Cypriot south to the Turkish Cypriots north in divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus. As the world commemorates 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the bullet-riddled sandstone walls of abandoned, crumbling homes and concrete machine gun nests dotting in Cyprus’ no-man’s land are a reminder of Europe’s last divided country. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
In this Tuesday Nov. 5, 2019, a U.N peacekeeper walks nside the U.N buffer zone that divided the Greek Cypriot south to the Turkish Cypriots north in divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus. As the world commemorates 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the bullet-riddled sandstone walls of abandoned, crumbling homes and concrete machine gun nests dotting in Cyprus’ no-man’s land are a reminder of Europe’s last divided country. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

3 Comments

  1. It is an absolute shame that this body, the “United Nations,” along with the rest of the world allowed this invasion to happen. And to make matters even worse, have allowed it to continue for 45 years. Turkey had absolutely no right to invade another country and should have been told to get the heck out and to stay out. No ifs, ands or buts!

  2. Turks are NOT, have never been and never will be Cypriot.

    The occupied territory is NOT a “breakaway”, it is a FOREIGN OCCUPATION. Stop calling these creatures “Cypriot”. It is highly offensive. You might as well call nazis “Jews”.

    The Berlin Wall kept the same German people separate based on political lines. One people divided.

    Cyprus is completely different.

    All of Cyprus is Greek. Turks are not Cypriot. Turk invaders invaded 37% of Greeks lands, walked on by Greeks for 3000 years, brought over more turks to supplement the Turks from the first invasion and occupation and refer to themselves as the people they have shit on for centuries, Cypriots.

    Understand, this was allowed to happen by the west and NATO as they wanted to please turks who are the seconds largest military in NATO.

    “Turkey” is a puppet state, a disgusting skid mark from that larger turd called the “Ottoman empire” which the west uses to prevent Russian expansion. That is all. Cyprus is a pawn to them.

    Turks were removed from other Greek lands, back in Greek hands, Cyprus will be free one day too.

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