Prof. Dr. Hüseyin Işıksal, Special Advisor to the Turkish Repubic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) President on International Relations and Diplomacy, a Member of the Negotiation Team and the Chairperson of the International Relations Committee, has penned an article for “Anadolu Agency Analysis” discussing the United Nations’ double standard regarding the Pile-Yiğitler road project, which has been in progress since 1974 with the aim of improving the living conditions of Turkish Cypriots in the buffer zone.
Despite the constructive approach and collaboration efforts by the Turkish Cypriot side over the past 25 years, the Pile-Yiğitler Road project has not received the support of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force (UNFICYP). As a result, the construction work for the road was initiated on August 18 after informing UNFICYP authorities.
The significance of the Pile-Yiğitler Road Project
The improvement project for the Pile-Yiğitler Road, which has been in existence from pre-1974 times to the present, holds great importance in addressing various humanitarian needs like healthcare, schools, shopping, and other essential services of the Turkish population in Pile. It will also contribute to economic development, significantly ease transportation to other regions in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) and facilitate the movement of local residents within TRNC. Turkish Cypriots in Pile, the only mixed village in the buffer zone where both Turkish and Greek Cypriots reside, pass through customs checks at British military bases located within the village to access the rest of TRNC. Due to the prolonged procedures and long distance, reaching the capital city of Lefkoşa takes over an hour.
With the Yiğitler-Pile Road, this time will be reduced to 10–15 minutes. The total length of the road is 11.6 kilometers, of which 7.5 kilometers is within the borders of Yiğitler and the remaining 4.1 kilometers in Pile. In summary, the Yiğitler-Pile Road project has been developed entirely based on humanitarian reasons and needs. It serves as a lifeline for the Turkish citizens living in Pile, a community facing socio-economic pressures and decreasing population day by day.
The source of the problem
Despite these facts, on the morning of August 18th when road construction work commenced, United Nations Peacekeeping Force (UNFICYP) soldiers attempted to obstruct the construction by setting up barricades and physically intervened with the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus police and the road construction crew in the region who were present there to ensure the safety of the civilian team. In a statement issued by the UN, Turkish Cypriot forces allegedly attacked UN Peacekeepers while they were performing their legal duties to prevent unauthorized construction activities. UNFICYP also called on the Turkish Cypriot side to respect the authority of the mission in the buffer zone, avoid any actions that could further escalate tensions and immediately withdraw all personnel and equipment from the area.
As can be clearly seen from this statement, the source of the problem lies in the fact that TRNC and its authority are considered “unauthorized” by the UN. However, the tension within the boundaries of TRNC is a result of the attitude of UN soldiers and their physical interventions against TRNC police.
Following the incident, the Foreign Ministers of TRNC and Türkiye expressed strong reactions. TRNC Foreign Minister Tahsin Ertuğruloğlu stated that the United Nations Security Council is not a friend of Turkish people and emphasized that the road project will undoubtedly be completed. Meanwhile, Turkish Republic Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan declared their support for the just position of TRNC and stated that the UN has lost its neutrality. Hakan Fidan also emphasized that the road project will continue.
The double standard of the UN
The obstruction of the Pile-Yiğitler Road project by the UN raises the question of whether the Greek Cypriot has faced similar interventions in the buffer zone. Greek Cypriots residing in Pile can freely travel to and from Southern Cyprus without any border or customs control. They are not subjected to any restrictive measures by either British bases or UN authorities. Moreover, the UN allowed the construction of the Larnaca-Dikelya-Ayia Napa road, which was built by the Greek Cypriot side in 1996 by deliberately expropriating Turkish lands and part of which passes through the buffer zone, and the Pile-Voroklini Road, which was also built by the Greek Cypriot side in 2004 and also part of which passes through the buffer zone. All this happened despite various objections and protests of the Turkish Cypriot side.
In this context, another crucial aspect to be emphasized is that Greek Cypriot violations in the buffer zone are not limited solely to road constructions. The campus of the Pile University, built in the buffer zone in 2012, is expanded each year without UN permission. Again, despite the strong and persistent objections from the Turkish Cypriot side, the UN remains silent on the outdoor cinema built in the buffer zone in 2020 and still active. Considering these facts, it becomes evident that the Greek Cypriot side is systematically pursuing a policy of “Hellenization” of Pile and the buffer zone, aiming to force the Turkish Cypriot population in Pile to migrate. The UNFICYP approves this policy by remaining silent.
These developments are causing damage to the credibility of the UNFICYP, which still refrains from signing a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with TRNC. Non-neutral stance undermines the UNBG’s reputation and calls into question its presence in the TRNC. It is time for the UNFICYP, which operated thanks to the good faith of TRNC authorities, to reconsider its stance and treat both the Turkish and Greek Cypriot sides equally.
In conclusion, the Pile-Yiğitler Road project has once again shown to those who guard the status quo guardians and who just administer the current situation that time is not static and dynamism cannot be prevented. This incident is crucial in proving that a fair, lasting, and sustainable solution in Cyprus should be based on existing realities, not virtual ones. The Greek Cypriot side does not have the right or authority to represent either the Turkish Cypriot people or the entire island. Similarly, the authority of the UNFICYP is limited to the buffer zone.
The most significant message conveyed by all these events is the vital importance of the concept of “sovereignty,” which Turkish Cypriot President Ersin Tatar describes as indispensable for the life and existence of Turkish Cypriots on the island. The policy of sovereignty, which buries the intentions to relegate Turkish Cypriots to minority status into the graveyard and which defies those who don’t accept the Turkish presence on the island, is once again proven to be correct.
In the coming period, the international community, which has been granting the Cyprus Greek leadership fictive status beyond its authority, sovereignty and power for years, will have to face the strong stance of TRNC like in the Pile-Yiğitler Road project. The guardians of the status quo will not be able to hinder TRNC to reach its destination, just as the Pile-Yiğitler Road will do.
Previously published on Anadolu Agency, translation by UWI. Cover picture by AA.