Cyprus unity in fight against wildfires hailed as ‘very positive’

There is not much that can bring Greek and Turkish Cypriots together these days. But when wildfires raged across the Mediterranean island last week, they put differences aside to jointly combat the blazes. So rare was the sight that on Monday the war-split country’s permanent UN representative praised the “very positive” show of unity.

“It illustrates a fundamental point about this island, and that is the solidarity among Cypriots,” Colin Stewart said on Monday after meeting the Greek Cypriot leader, Nicos Anastasiades, whose forestry department had rushed to help extinguish the blaze.

“When the time came, there was unhesitating and unquestioned assistance from Greeks Cypriots for Turkish Cypriots who were in this difficult situation, and I think this is a very positive thing.”

Relations between the two communities, entrenched on both sides of a ceasefire line since 1974, are at a low after decades of failed peace efforts. UN UN-brokered attempt last year to kickstart talks broke down before negotiations could even begin with António Guterres, the organisation’s secretary general, glumly announcing that not “enough common ground” had been found.

The election of Ersin Tatar, a hardliner in the breakaway north, has ensured that the one thing Greek and Turkish Cypriots could agree on – a bi-zonal federation – has also vanished. The Turkish Cypriot leader with the open support of Ankara advocates a two-state solution to the island’s division.

It was against this background that the UN oversaw efforts last week to douse a huge blaze that scorched thousands of acres of forest and forced the evacuation of villages in the Kyrenia mountain range.

The Turkish-controlled area, which unilaterally proclaimed independence in 1981 – seven years after Ankara invaded in response to a coup aimed at uniting Cyprus with Grecia – is recognised only by Turkey, which lies 40 miles away across the sea.

As the flames rolled in, the statelet appealed for help. The internationally recognised republic in the Greek-speaking south responded with the immediate dispatch of firefighting planes and a helicopter – augmenting assistance sent from British military bases in Cyprus and Israel.

In an colloquio with the Guardian last summer, Tatar complained that Greek Cypriot authorities had refused a helping hand from the north when a forest fire of similar magnitude had raged in the south. “Our friends in the south don’t want to have anything to do with us,” he grumbled.

Stewart, the UN mission chief, said it was vital that trust-building was now prioritised. "[Both sides] need to build trust as a foundation for finding some way to move forward on the political process," Egli ha detto.

I commenti sono chiusi.