Arab Today, arab today farmers returning to cyprus buffer zone
Last Updated : GMT 15:07:28
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Farmers returning to Cyprus buffer zone

Arab Today, arab today

Arab Today, arab today Farmers returning to Cyprus buffer zone

Mammari - AFP

The UN-patrolled buffer zone that slices across Cyprus is not so deserted any more: it\'s full of pigs and farmers, and, thanks to demining and EU membership, a rebirth is under way. The UN-administered buffer zone runs along a \"Green Line\", established in 1974 after the Turkish invasion of the north of the island, which 30 years later joined the European Union. It partitions the island between the area controlled by the government in the south and a breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is recognised only by Ankara. Seven crossing points are dotted across the Green Line, allowing travel between the two sides for the past nine years. Taking up three percent of the island\'s territory, the zone also cuts through the heart of the capital Nicosia, where entire streets including shops have been abandoned for almost four decades. But a few miles (kilometres) away, near the buffer zone village of Mammari, three brothers raise tens of thousands of pigs, producing much of the eastern Mediterranean island\'s pork, used for ever-popular kebabs. Dozens of workers, suppliers and customers cross a rarely manned UN post each day to work in the demilitarised zone. \"Every six months when a new UN team arrives, they are overzealous,\" complained Neophytos Neophytou who runs a veterinary clinic on a pig farm. \"We are supposed to provide identification of all the persons who come here. It\'s impossible, but we have arrangements.\" With extensive demining operations started by the UN in 2004 and now nearly complete, more than a third of the buffer zone\'s land has been opened to civilians, and many groves and farming lands have been revived. A university in the uniquely mixed village of Pyla -- the only locality where Greek and Turkish Cypriots live -- opened in September, aiming to draw students from both sides. And besides agriculture, urbanisation is slowly nibbling away at buffer-zone areas west of Nicosia where the Green Line is not clearly demarcated. \"Before people were afraid to get close to the enemy, but with stability more and more they want to use their land in the buffer zone,\" said Michel Bonnardeaux, spokesman for UNFICYP, the UN peacekeeping mission for Cyprus. \"The entry (of Cyprus) into the European Union has boosted this trend and, since 2008, the (EU\'s) Common Agricultural Policy applies to these lands, making them entitled to subsidies.\" The Greek Cypriot villagers of Mammari, previously denied access by the UN force to avoid any incidents with nearby Turkish troops, have returned to their land. \"There are no more fixed control points so you can move freely in the fields,\" said Stelios Christofi, a resident in his 70s. Farmers now need to obtain a licence twice a year from UNFICYP to operate in the area. \"At the end of the road are Turkish troops but there is no problem,\" said Michalakis Michail as he picked olives. \"Last week there was heavy rain and the water brought some Turkish mines down here. UN blew them all up.\" In some areas the two communities live side by side -- a rare example of cohabitation. A return to normalcy in the buffer zone is part of the UN mandate but it has only a few dozen policemen with very limited ability to maintain order if incidents break out.

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