US, allies condemn assault on UN peacekeepers by Turkish Cypriots

The U.S., France and United Kingdom condemned the assault on United Nations (UN) peacekeepers by Turkish Cypriot forces on Friday, calling the attacks a “serious crime under international law.”

“We condemn the assaults against UN Peacekeepers and damage to UN vehicles by personnel of the Turkish Cypriot side this morning,” the embassies said in a joint statement. “Threats to the safety of UN Peacekeepers and damage to UN property constitute a serious crime under international law.”

The UN, in a statement, said peacekeepers stood in the way of work crews building a road to connect the village of Arsos — in the Turkish Cypriot north — with the mixed Greek Cypriot-Turkish Cypriot village of Pyla, located inside of the buffer zone. It is also near the area where Cyprus’s internationally recognized government sits, according to the Associated Press.

The group of Turkish Cypriot personnel in response reportedly punched and kicked the peacekeepers, and damaged vehicles belonging to them, according to the UN.

The road, if constructed, would bypass a checkpoint on the northern fringe of a British military base and allow Turkish Cypriots direct access to Pyla.

The three countries urged authorities to stop the construction and to respect the mandated authority the UNFICYP — the organization of peacekeepers — has in the area.

In their statement, the three countries called the assaults “completely unacceptable” and undermining of the UN’s ability to “fulfill its peacekeeping mandate.”

“We call upon Turkish Cypriot authorities to refrain from any further escalatory actions that risk undermining the prospects for a return to settlement talks, and to immediately cease any form of violence against the UN Peacekeepers deployed to the area,” the countries wrote.

Turkish Cypriot authorities put the blame on UN peacekeepers for their altercation, calling the peacekeepers’ actions “unacceptable. They also dismissed UNFICYP’s statement on the assaults as “unfounded allegations,” and accused the peacekeeping force of being “biased,” toward them. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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