NEWS

Brickbats fly as Cyprus wall crumbles

NICOSIA – If the precarious state of a crumbling Venetian wall is any indicator, the prospects are not very bright for upcoming talks aimed at ending Cyprus’s decades-long division. The four-century-old Roccas Bastion is part of the walls around Nicosia’s old town, but the heaviest December rains in 100 years caused a section of the fortification to tumble, and the bastion now teeters on the brink of oblivion. Yet no one has has lifted a finger to fix it, as the Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot sides quarrel over who should do what. Greek-Cypriot workmen tried but were prevented from doing anything during a standoff with Turkish-Cypriot security forces. The wall is a sensitive issue because the bastion straddles the UN-manned Green Line in Nicosia, the world’s last divided capital. The bastion marks the edge of the boundary between the UN-controlled buffer zone and the Turkish-held north, and the Turkish Cypriots have refused permission for the wall to be tampered with. That has led to complaints that the Turkish Cypriots are reneging on a previous UN-backed and funded bicommunal agreement for joint repairs to be done on the site. «Both sides are willing to repair the wall but they want to do it alone, a UN source said. «We would like to see them do it together. «We hope to reach some kind of agreement soon,» the source added. Under the initial UN plan, it was agreed that the wall’s facade would be restored by the Cypriot Department of Antiquities, while Turkish Cypriots would carry out much needed repairs on the top of the wall. But both parties dispute where the UN-patrolled no-man’s land begins and ends on their side of the wall. The Turkish Cypriots claim that the base is on their side of the ceasefire line, while the Greeks counter that the Turkish-Cypriot line is drawn along the fenced top of that section of the wall. Director of Antiquities Sophocles Hadzisavvas has accused the Turkish side of «behaving like the Taleban» for deliberately allowing archaeological monuments to be destroyed. He said more rain could trigger a total collapse of the wall unless emergency repairs are carried out. As weathermen are forecasting more rain, time is running out for the wall which protected Nicosia during the Ottoman invasion of 1570, before the city fell after a two-month siege.