The UN secretary-general’s special representative in Cyprus Elizabeth Spehar addressed the issue of the buffer zone along Nicosia’s green line on Wednesday, stating “[i]t never ceases to be a shocking image.”
The comment was made at a bicommunal conference, where attendees stated that every necessary measure for the restoration the of the buffer zone has been completed and it is up to the public to ensure that it actually is re-opened and restored.
Agni Petridou and Ali Guralp, the architects of the Nicosia Master Plan, lead a bicommunal group which is currently working to restore the dilapidated buildings which have remained standing still in time.
“We have done a lot of work to prepare, but we are not able to get into the buffer zone,” Guralp explained. “We are waiting for the green light. Pressure will come from the public to do something about it.”
“We are optimistic,” his Greek Cypriot counterpart Petridou said. “We prepared for years for the Ledra crossing to open, and then suddenly they gave us a week to open it.”
The buffer zone was established following the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus where occupied forces advanced to take over 36 percent of the island, now referred to as the northern third.
The division of the island extends from Morphou in the west, through Nicosia to Famagusta in the east. Along the dividing line is a buffer zone that UN peacekeepers have monitored ever since the invasion 44 years ago.
Spehar further stated her support towards restoring the buffer zone, saying that is it is of great historical significance. Her words echoed those in a recent UN report which stated: “Without prompt coordinated action, the historical buildings in the buffer zone could become so ruined that they will not be able to be restored thus irrevocably destroying the heart of the city and its numerous heritage buildings.”
The site of the buffer zone was listed in Europa Nostra’s annual list of the seven most endangered site in Europe five years ago. So far, the program has selected 20 monuments in 19 countries that are in dire need of restoration. The buffer zone, however, is one of the largest projects, housing 265 buildings which are all brutally neglected.