The visit to Denya village to conduct a religious ceremony by the Turkish Cypriot former residents of Denya, which is located in the buffer zone, has been cancelled due to the UN Peacekeeping Force’s (UNFICYP) denial of authorization. In this regard, our Ministry feels compelled to share the following statement:

Three weeks ago, the former Turkish Cypriot residents of the village of Denya applied to our Ministry expressing their wish to conduct Friday prayer on 9 November 2018 at the village Mosque which is located in the buffer zone. This request was made following the restoration of the said Mosque by the Cultural Heritage Technical Committee, after it had been vandalized twice in the past. After verbally conveying the request to UNFICYP, our Ministry also communicated in writing, on 25 October 2018, the request of the Denya villagers to access the Mosque by using the old Serhatköy-Denya road.

Subsequently, UNFICYP requested the ID information of the participants, vehicle model and license plate information, as well as insurance for the vehicle, all of which were met by our Ministry in the spirit of goodwill. Then, UNFICYP went so far as to ask for a meeting with the driver of the minibus last Wednesday, which has never before been a part of established practice. Nevertheless, our Ministry also responded positively to this request, enabling this meeting to take place at the old Serhatköy-Denya road’s entrance to the buffer zone. After this request was also met, UNFICYP alleged that the area in the Turkish Cypriot side through which the road passes could contain landmines. Upon UNFICYP’s dissatisfaction with our verbal assurance of the non-existence of minefields in that area, our Ministry proceeded to provide the necessary assurance in writing.
In this context, despite that all preparations were completed and even the Greek Cypriot villagers at Denya expressed how pleased they would be to welcome the former villagers, as well as their intention to provide refreshments following the prayer, UNFICYP, by ignoring all of the aforementioned efforts, made meaningless and baseless justifications to convey, in the late hours of last night, that authorisation to enter the buffer zone would not be granted, stating the excuse that the event was ‘untimely’. The actions which led to the cancellation of the event just 12 hours prior to taking place in the buffer zone by way of citing arbitrary and baseless reasons has led to the profound disappointment of the Turkish Cypriot former villagers of Denya.

As it is well known, the mandate of UNFICYP includes clear statements of encouragement of civilian activity in the buffer zone to the fullest extent possible. In addition, we would like to underline the fact that the Greek Cypriots have held religious services in 4 different parts of the Buffer Zone (Derinya, Trulli, Madenliköy and Şirinköy villages) without being subject to any permission or procedures.

The Government of TRNC has always given the necessary support to such activities, both in Northern Cyprus and in the buffer zone. However, after all the abovementioned efforts and preparations and in total disregard of the disappointment that it would cause among the villagers, the stance of UNFICYP which has led to the cancellation of this first-time request of the Turkish Cypriot side based on baseless and artificial reasons is unacceptable.

As a result of this last example, it has become apparent once again that UNFICYP does not follow a fair and unbiased approach towards the sides on the island. With this approach, UNFICYP did not only disappoint the Turkish Cypriots but also has acted in contravention to its own mandate. These events have also cast a shadow on the operations conducted by UNFICYP. Such an approach, which is not even in conformity with its own mandate and operations, unfortunately not only harms the trust towards UNFICYP, but also damages the trust between the two sides.

Due to its incomprehensible and disconcerting attitude on this matter, UNFICYP has been protested by a Note sent by our Ministry today. Our consultations regarding similar issues are continuing and we will continue to duly share our evaluations with the public.