Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) President Mustafa Akıncı has called on the ‘Greek Cypriot administration of South Cyprus’ to take action after a coach picking up a group of tourists from Larnaca airport was reportedly targeted in a “racially motivated attack”.
Mr Akıncı raised the issue with the UN’s top official in Cyprus, Elizabeth Spehar, who he received at the Presidency in Lefkoşa on Wednesday, 10 July.
He said he asked her to tell Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades and the South Cyprus authorities to take “proper measures” following the incident.
The President said it was “not possible” to accept the attack on a TRNC-number plated coach while steps were being taken to build “confidence” between the two sides.
“While striving to produce ideas to increase trust between the two communities, we monitor diligently and with sensitivity the incidents contrary to our efforts,” Akıncı added.
The incident was first brought to light by the TRNC’s Deputy Prime Ministry and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which said in a written statement that that a “racially motivated attack” had occurred at around 6.15pm on Friday, 5 July.
The trouble started when passengers who had landed at Larnaca were boarding a coach in the airport’s car park to take them to a hotel in the TRNC, according to information the ministry received from a “company official”.
“The coach’s exit was blocked by a car and the driver and passengers were subjected to verbal and physical attacks,” the statement said.
“A plastic water bottle was thrown at the coach and its rear-view mirrors were bent in an attempt to prevent a safe journey.
The intimidation continued on the road as “commercial vehicles with South Cyprus number plates tailgated and even cut in front” of the coach, “putting the passengers’ lives at risk”
“Security guards just stood by and watched. Only the coach driver’s sensible behaviour and restraint prevented the incident from spiralling out of control.”
The intimidation continued, however, on the road to North Cyprus as “commercial vehicles with South Cyprus number plates tailgated and even cut in front” of the coach, “putting the passengers’ lives at risk”.
The dangerous manoeuvres forced the coach driver to change his route and enter the TRNC through the nearest border crossing.
“More and more Turkish Cypriot commercial vehicles are being subjected to similar attacks in South Cyprus,” the statement added.
“We condemn the attacks in the strongest possible terms and call on the Greek Cypriot authorities once again to take urgent and necessary measures against such racist attacks, which do not hesitate to put people’s lives in danger.”
Last year the windows of a parked car belonging to Turkish Cypriot lawyer Nil Çeliker were smashed while she went on a South Nicosia shopping trip with her three-and-a-half-year-old son.
In August 2017 a TRNC taxi carrying British pensioners Bob and Gill Carnduff, who were travelling from Larnaca airport to their home in Ozanköy, was pelted with stones and bear cans by an angry mob – who had also tried to open the vehicle’s doors – at traffic lights near the ground of Apoel football club.
The year before taxi driver Ali Karapaşa was left “bloodied and beaten” by two assailants on motorbikes who cut him up as he drove towards the Metehan checkpoint.
There have been numerous other instances of vandalism – including slashed tyres – reported against vehicles with TRNC number plates in South Cyprus since the border was opened in 2003.
In 2009 a TRNC motorist who had parked his car in South Nicosia returned to find the word EOKA – the name of the Greek Cypriot terrorist organisation whose aim was to unite Cyprus with Greece – spray painted on its side.
The TRNC Foreign Ministry said last year that attacks on Turkish Cypriots in South Cyprus were “on the rise” and “increasingly becoming normalised”.
Last month the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) said that the Greek Cypriot authorities had made only partial progress on recommendations it made in a comprehensive report published three years earlier.
The 2016 ECRI report highlighted the rise of the “far-right military-style” National Popular Front (ELAM), which gained 8.25 per cent of the vote in May’s European elections, up from just 2.7 per cent in 2014.
“ELAM promotes an anti-Semitic, anti-Turkish Cypriot, racist and xenophobic agenda and is believed to be responsible for attacks on Turkish Cypriots and migrants,” the ECRI said at the time.
And Greek Cypriot army officer Nicos Metaxas was handed multiple life sentences in June after pleading guilty to the murder of five foreign women and two of their children, in a shocking case that exposed the abuse experienced by migrant workers.