The Green Line in Cyprus

Buffer Zone Incidents Since 1974

It was the position of the United Nations that the National Guard and the Turkish and Turkish Cypriot forces were required to remain behind their respective cease-fire lines and that neither could exercise authority or jurisdiction beyond its line.

The following were considered by UNFICYP to be the main categories of cease-fire violations:

  • Any move of military elements forward of their cease-fire line into the buffer zone
  • The discharge of any type of weapons or explosives, without prior notification, along the cease-fire lines or up to a distance of 1,000 metres behind them
  • Building of new or strengthening of existing military positions within 400 m of the opposing cease-fire line
  • Building of new or strengthening of existing military positions more than 400 m from the opposing cease-fire line if UNFICYP considers this incompatible with the spirit of the cease-fire
  • Overflights of the buffer zone by military or civilian aircraft of either side
  • Troop deployment and training exercises in an area closer than 1,000 m from their cease-fire line without prior notification
  • Provocative acts between the two sides, such as shouting abuse, indecent gestures or throwing stones

In January 1996, well before the planned departure, it was announced that a symbolic motorcycle ride from Berlin to Kyrenia would take place. Berlin was chosen as the start because it was formerly a divided city.
The riders (Greek Cypriot and other nationalities) left Berlin on August 2nd and planned to conclude the event on the 11th August in Kyrenia.
The final day in Cyprus would follow the Buffer Zone from Deryneia to Nicosia where they would cross the border and continue to Kyrenia.

The Berlin to Kyrenia motorcycle ride leaves Berlin on the 2nd August 1996

Details of how many bikers completed the entire journey and the route used are unknown.
However, on the 11th August at a meeting with President Clerides, the Cyprus Federation of Motorcyclists agreed to cancel the event citing political and security reasons.

The President of the Cyprus Motorcyclists Federation (George Hadjicostas) and President Glafcos Clerides announce the cancellation

The Federation called on its members to gather in the Makarios Stadium (in Makedonitissa, near the UNPA/old international airport) and not the orginally intended start point at Deryneia.
As the event was well publicised in advance, counter-demonstrators gathered in the Turkish Cypriot area. These demonstrators were known to include many members of the "Grey Wolves", an ultra-nationalist Turkish organisation. Additionally, around 2.500 bikers, who had come from Turkey, said they would attempt to cross into the Greek Cypriot south to visit the Hala Sultan mosque in Larnaca.

In this volatile environment, scores of disappointed bikers expressed indignation at the cancellation of their long-awaited ride and many formed groups which rode to several points close to the Buffer Zone.
There were violations of the Buffer Zone in the Sopaz area (east of Nicosia), around the northern perimeter of the ESBA and, the most serious, at Deryneia (close to Famagusta and the eastern end of the Buffer Zone).

Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot demonstrators converge on the Buffer Zone at Deryneia

The UN report states:
"A large number of Greek Cypriots were allowed to cross the National Guard cease-fire line. In the meantime, the Turkish forces allowed counter-demonstrators and Turkish Cypriot police to cross a restricted military area and to enter the United Nations Buffer Zone. They proceeded to beat the Greek Cypriots with batons and iron bars, killing one civilian".

The civilian was named as Tassos Isaac from nearby Paralimni.

The well documented killing of Tassos Isaac
The image has been cropped to remove the victim.....if you wish to view the full image and associated video clips of the beating then click this link (page opens in a new window)

This Associated Press video (with commentary) gives an overall impression of the incident which took place on the 11th August 1996

On the 14th August, following the funeral of Tassos Isaac, around 200 Greek Cypriots entered the Buffer Zone at Deryneia.

The UN report on this incident states:
"On 14 August, following the funeral of the Greek Cypriot who had been beaten to death, some 200 Greek Cypriots approached the Turkish forces' cease-fire line. Most were stopped by UNFICYP and were about to be moved out of the Buffer Zone when one demonstrator broke free from the main group and ran towards a Turkish Cypriot checkpoint, closely pursued by UNFICYP soldiers. While attempting to climb a flagpole flying a Turkish flag just behind the Turkish forces' ceasefire line, he was shot five times from the Turkish/Turkish Cypriot side. In addition, Turkish and/or Turkish Cypriot uniformed personnel proceeded to fire some 25 to 50 rounds indiscriminately into the crowd inside the buffer zone. As a result, two British UNFICYP soldiers and two Greek Cypriots were wounded".

The demonstrator shot dead was Solomos Spyrou Solomou from occupied Famagusta, the cousin of Tassos Isaac.

Solomos Solomou slips past a UN soldier who gives chase. The soldier manages to grab hold of his arm but Solomou pulls free. As he is now in the Turkish area, the soldier stops chasing him. Solomou starts to climb the flagpole and is then shot dead.
The images has been taken from a video sequence.....if you wish to view the associated video clips of the shooting then click this link (page opens in a new window)

A UN officer calls for help after a British UN soldier is hit by gunfire

The toll of the protest rally and its aftermath was 2 persons dead and 60 injured (36 Greek Cypriot civilians, 3 Greek Cypriot police officers, 2 police officers serving with the British Bases and 19 UNFICYP soldiers). The casualty figures for those on the Turkish side are not known.

Cousins Tassos Isaac (left) and Solomos Solomou killed three days apart

Almost 20 years later, the UN report (8th July 2016) stated that........
"The integrity and stability of the buffer zone was maintained throughout the reporting period. Regular UNFICYP patrols, detailed observation, sustained liaison at all levels and clear efforts to strengthen relationships with the opposing forces allowed the Force to avoid any significant escalation of disputes".

However, the report continues..........
"UNFICYP continued to face challenges to its authority throughout the reporting period, which saw 491 reported unauthorized incursions into the buffer zone, including 54 by Greek Cypriot hunters, who were often armed, and 99 by farmers".

In the years since the events of August 1996 there have been thousands of Buffer Zone violations but all of a very minor nature and there has been no repeat of such serious events.