ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey’s foreign minister accused the United Nations of abandoning its neutrality on Tuesday, a day after the U.N. Security Council criticized construction work by Turkish Cypriots inside the buffer zone dividing Cyprus and condemned their assault on U.N. peacekeepers.
In a statement issued Monday, the Security Council described the construction of a road as a violation of the status quo that is contrary to council resolutions. The statement came at the end of emergency closed consultations by the council’s 15 members.
Angry Turkish Cypriots last week punched and kicked a group of international peacekeepers that blocked crews working on a road that would encroach on the island’s U.N.-controlled buffer zone. The road is designed to connect the village of Arsos, in the Turkish Cypriot north, with the multi-ethnic village of Pyla, which is inside the buffer zone and abuts the Greek Cypriot south.
“We believe that with this move, the United Nations has lost its neutrality,” Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan told reporters during a joint news conference with his Bulgarian counterpart.
Fidan maintained that Greek Cypriots had been allowed to go ahead with similar road construction projects.
“The road built by Greek Cypriots towards the Greek population in Pyla was never subjected to obstruction and condemnation by the United Nations,” he said. He accused the U.N. of acting “like a hawk” to block the Turkish Cypriots’ project.
Earlier, the Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a statement rejecting the U.N. Security Council’s condemnation, which is said was “divorced from the realities on the ground.”
Speaking after a Cabinet meeting late Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the U.N. peacekeepers’ action “unacceptable” and accused the force of bias against Turkish Cypriots.
Cyprus was divided along ethnic lines in 1974 following a Turkish invasion that was triggered by a coup aimed at uniting the island with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence in the Mediterranean nation’s northern third where Turkey maintains more than 35,000 troops. Although Cyprus joined the European Union in 2004, only the Greek Cypriot south — where the island’s internationally recognized government is seated — enjoys full membership benefits.
Since 1974, a U.N. peacekeeping force known as UNFICYP has supervised the de facto cease-fire and maintained a buffer zone between Turkish and Turkish Cypriot forces in the north and Greek Cypriot forces in the south.
The Security Council welcomed the halt in construction by the Turkish Cypriot side and the removal of equipment and personnel. It called on both sides to show flexibility and support efforts by the U.N. envoy “to negotiate mutually agreed development in the area concerned.”
The road would give Turkish Cypriots direct access to Pyla by circumventing a checkpoint on the northern fringe of a British military base, one of two bases that the U.K. retained after Cyprus gained independence from British colonial rule in 1960.
The Cyprus government perceives the road’s construction as a move with a military purpose at a sensitive spot along the buffer zone, which spans 180 kilometers (112 miles).
Cyprus’ Foreign Ministry said Tuesday it was satisfied with the U.N. Security Council statement over what it called “a new, serious military breach” of the buffer zone.
The ministry said threats and violence against UN peacekeepers were a “crime under international law” and that Cyprus stands in full solidarity with the UN mission on the island.
“The strong reaction of the international community constitutes a clear response to the unfounded claims of the Turkish Cypriot leadership and Turkey and sends a strong message that such actions will not be accepted,” the ministry said.
Turkey has described the road as a “humanitarian” project for the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot residents of Pyla.