Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Greek Lights, Turkish Bitumen on a Cyprus Street International Efforts Promote Cooperation on the Divided Island,

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Greek Lights, Turkish Bitumen on a Cyprus Street International Efforts Promote Cooperation on the Divided Island,

Article excerpt

The contested stretch of road is just 200 yards long and doesn't connect anything; it simply improves access to a handful of village houses.

But on the divided island of Cyprus, politics seems to infest every issue - especially if your village, like Pyla, and your road, happen to sit in the middle of the buffer zone between ethnic Greek and Turkish areas.

Once called a model village of cohabitation by the United Nations, this is the only place on the Mediterranean island where people of both groups live side by side. But "harmony" is not a word that many residents use to describe their lives, and underlying tension points to the difficulty of forging peace in Cyprus. "There was a big argument over who could build that road," says Alkan Batikent, a Turkish Cypriot resident who owns a popular bar and restaurant nearby. In the end, it was decided that the Turkish side could pave the road, and that the Greek side could install the street lights. "The UN had to mediate," says Mr. Batikent, throwing his arms up in exasperation. "How stupid can you get?" Cypriots have been divided since 1974, when troops from Turkey invaded northern Cyprus to protect their ethnic brethren from the results of a brief Greek-led coup that aimed to unite the island with Greece. Some 30,000 troops are still deployed in the breakaway Turkish statelet in the north, while the internationally recognized Greek- led government of Cyprus in the south counters with 10,000 of its own national guards. Though Cypriots of both communities live together here, residents say they rarely mix. A Turkish coffeehouse stands on one corner of the central square; a Greek bar stands opposite. Further evidence of the larger Cyprus conflict is hard to ignore. Turkish troops occupy a high ridge that overlooks the village. A statue of Kemal Ataturk, who founded modern Turkey in the 1920s, stands on the edge of the cliff as if marching south to dominate Greek Cyprus. On the Greek side, a similar message of defiance came with the recent building of a huge Greek Orthodox church, to join the two churches already serving the village's 600 to 700 ethnic Greeks. "Pyla is a battleground for the two sides," says Batikent. "They have so much space outside the village {for the church}, why did they have to squeeze it inside among the houses?" Such exhibits of nationalism rarely encourage give-and-take searches for solutions. For years, the Cyprus Fulbright Commission has worked to bring the two communities together. While UN and United States peace efforts have long been under way, most centered on a federal solution and rarely included grass-roots input. One solution-oriented effort that does involve local residents is bicommunal activities. Sponsored by the Fulbright Commission, the US Embassy, and European missions, these joint meetings and peace- oriented workshops began in the mid-1990s. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.