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Turkey says UN has lost neutrality after world body condemns roadworks in Cyprus and attacks on peacekeepers

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey’s foreign minister accused the United Nations of relinquishing its neutrality on Tuesday, a day after the UN Security Council criticized construction work by Turkish Cypriots in the buffer zone separating Cyprus and their attack on UN peacekeepers.

In a statement on Monday, the Security Council described the construction of a road as a violation of the status quo in violation of council resolutions. The statement came at the end of emergency consultations by the council’s 15 members.

Angry Turkish Cypriots last week punched and kicked a group of international peacekeepers blocking crews working on a road that would enter the island’s UN-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 lies within the buffer zone and borders the Greek Cypriot south.

“We believe that the United Nations has lost its neutrality with this move,” Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan told reporters during a joint press conference with his Bulgarian counterpart.

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Fidan maintained that Greek Cypriots had been allowed to proceed with similar road construction projects.

“The road built by Greek Cypriots to the Greek population in Pyla has never been hindered and condemned by the United Nations,” he said. He accused the UN of acting “like a hawk” to block the Turkish Cypriots’ project.

Earlier, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement rejecting the UN Security Council’s condemnation, which was said to be “divorced from the reality on the ground”.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the action by UN peacekeepers “unacceptable” and accused the force of bias against Turkish Cypriots.

Cyprus was divided into a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north and an internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south in 1974 after a Turkish invasion provoked by a coup aimed at uniting the island with Greece. Turkey has more than 35,000 soldiers in the northern third of the Mediterranean nation. The Greek Cypriot south is a member of the European Union.

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Since 1974, a UN peacekeeping force called UNFICYP has overseen the de facto ceasefire 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 halting of construction by the Turkish Cypriot side and the removal of equipment and personnel. It called on both sides to show flexibility and support the efforts of the UN envoy “to negotiate mutually agreed development in the area concerned”.

The road would allow Turkish Cypriots direct access to Pyla by bypassing a checkpoint on the northern edge of a British military base, one of two bases the UK retained after Cyprus gained independence from British colonial rule in 1960.

Greek Cypriots view the construction of the road as a move for military purposes in a sensitive area along the buffer zone, which extends for 180 kilometers (112 mi).

Turkey has described the road as a “humanitarian” project for the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot residents of Pyla.

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