Tensions simmer in Cyprus over Pyla-Arsos road project

Tensions simmer in Cyprus over Pyla-Arsos road project
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Controversial road construction in the UN Buffer Zone strains diplomatic relations between Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides.

The disputed construction of a road linking the Arsos (Yigitler) village in the unrecognized TRNC to the bi-communal Pyla (Pile) village, overseen by the UN, has exacerbated diplomatic tensions in Cyprus.

The Cyprus Mail relayed that Konstantinos Letymbiotis, the government spokesman, refuted claims from the north about the commencement of the contentious Pyla-Arsos road project, which is situated within the UN Buffer Zone. This clarification comes after peacekeepers faced physical altercations in mid-August for halting the roadwork crews aiming to connect Arsos and Pyla, located in the buffer zone.

Since this incident, discussions have ensued between the two factions, with the Greek Cypriot side proposing more zoning permissions in Pyla for either agricultural or residential purposes. Emphasizing ongoing deliberations, Letymbiotis remarked, "We are continuously liaising with the UN." He further reaffirmed President Christodoulides' position that any compromise jeopardizing the buffer zone's status or offering a military edge to the occupying forces would be unacceptable.

Despite prior assertions from the north about the roadwork's restart, UN sources informed Cyprus Mail that the area remains undisturbed. Encouragingly, the UN is optimistic about agreeing soon, potentially this week.

Daily Politis brought to light a probable solution to the debated Pyla-Arsos road earlier this month. The publication indicated that constructive talks between Colin Stewart, the UN's special representative in Cyprus, and both sides were making headway. As per their report, the road will materialize, accompanied by a comprehensive development plan for Pyla, which entails enhancements in housing and agriculture extending up to Pergamos. Crucially, the UN peacekeeping force (UNFICYP) is anticipated to exclusively oversee the buffer zone, a stipulation heavily advocated by the Greek Cypriot side. The paper noted that both parties have essentially endorsed the agreement, awaiting only its formal ratification.

In a concurrent development, Cyprus' President Nikos Christodoulides has reached out to United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, suggesting the nomination of a fresh UN envoy for Cyprus. The letter, which became public, captures Christodoulides' belief that unveiling the envoy should ideally follow a tripartite discussion involving the Secretary-General and the leaders of Cyprus's communities. Christodoulides reaffirmed his unwavering support for a bizonal bicommunal federation characterized by political equality.