NICOSIA – Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said that Turkish commando forces are lying in wait along the United Nations buffer zone on the island waiting to pounce on farmers.
He told the Parliament’s Finance Committee that the government has information that the forces were deployed along with new posts that a 35,000-strong Turkish army on the occupied northern side is setting up, reported The Cyprus Mail.
He was talking about rising tensions along the so-called Green Line patrolled by UN forces from foreign countries and as tension has risen over Turkish-Cypriots harassing Greek-Cypriot farmers working fields.
Kasoulides said Turkish soldiers are looking to create an incident for the slightest reason when a farmer goes to cultivate his land inside the buffer zone where they are allowed if they have permits.
“We need to be very careful,” he said, commenting on another recent incident in Astromeritis, where he said another farmer was similarly harassed by the Turkish army while there.
Kasoulides added that following the incident a call was put out for farmers to enter the area with 20 tractors as a sign of protest, which could have provoked a response.
“Luckily they did not enter, but had they entered we would have seen the commando forces, Land Rovers, and whatever else they have gathered there to go deal with the situation,” he said.
Earlier, the UN peacekeeping force (UNFICYP) said it would be stepping up buffer zone patrols to prevent any incidents that could be sparked by the farming and keep Turkish troops away.
The paper said there were reports from government-controlled areas that Turkish troops were kept away from moving a Greek-Cypriot farmer in the buffer area of Astromeritis by a UN patrol vehicle.
Turkey has said that it might boot the UN patrols that keep the two sides apart and have since two unlawful 1974 invasions by Turkey seized the now occupied part of the island.