Greek Cyprus installs barbed wire along UN buffer zone ahead of reunification talks

Greek Cyprus administration has started to build a barbed-wire fence along the Green Line in rural Nicosia, which it said aims to “prevent illegal migration flow” from the Turkish Cyprus. Critics however have pointed out that the fence could jeopardize the success of the UN meeting set to be held in Geneva in late April, and also symbolically represents the permanent demarcation of the island.

A UN soldier opens a gate leading into the buffer zone in Cyprus in this file photo.

Nikolaos Stelya / Duvar 

Greek Cyprus has started to build a barbed-wire fence along the United Nations buffer zone (or Green Line), just weeks ahead of the expected UN meeting in Geneva concerning the island.

Greek Cyprus administration has said that it attempts to cut the illegal migration flow coming from Turkish Cyprus. 

However, the Anastasiades government's move has drawn the criticism of locals and opposition parties as the barbed-wire fence prevents farmers from accessing their farms located inside the buffer zone.

For now, the wire has been installed only in the village of Astromeritis in Nicosia, but is set to cover a length of 11 km once the project is finished.

Main opposition party Akel said on March 8 that the government's move gives the “wrong message” and also will not be effective in preventing the irregular refugee flow. The party also criticized the government for not giving any explanation to farmers prior to the implementation of the project.

The move comes just a few weeks ahead of an informal meeting in Geneva under the auspices of the UN to explore a possible end to deadlocked Cyprus peace talks. The meeting will also involve Turkey, Greece and Britain.

Critics have pointed out that the barbed-wire fence could jeopardize the success of the meeting and symbolically represents the permanent division of the island.

Greek Cyprus Interior Minister Nicos Nouris attempted to answer the criticism on March 8, saying the EU and UN had been previously informed of the government's intention.

He also said that the installation of the barbed wire does not constitute a border demarcation.

Cyprus was split between a Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish Cypriot north after a Turkish invasion triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup in 1974.

There have been no official UN-sponsored negotiations on the island’s future since a conference in Switzerland collapsed in 2017.

The UN announced in February that it will convene a five-party Cyprus conference in Geneva on April 27-29.