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Cyprus conflict comes to a boil

U.N., U.S. fault Turkey for Greek Cypriot deaths

August 15, 1996
Web posted at: 5:00 p.m. EDT

CYPRUS (CNN) -- Greece and Turkey exchanged threatening words Thursday about the divided island of Cyprus, where two Greek Cypriots have been killed in violence in the U.N.-patrolled buffer zone this week.

Turkish Foreign Minister Tansu Ciller, who addressed a rally on the Turkish part of Cyprus, said Turks would "break the hands" of anyone who insulted their flag. She was referring to Solomos Solomou, an unarmed Greek Cypriot protester fatally shot by a soldier Wednesday while climbing a flagpole to pull down the red and white Turkish flag.

Another Greek Cypriot man was killed in a clash with Turkish Cypriot troops last Sunday.

'Very tense'


"The situation is again very tense. (Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis) wants to make it clear that any move by the Turks to the south will immediately mean war with Greece," said a senior Greek government official, who asked not to be identified. Turkey and Greece almost came to war earlier this year when Turkey laid claim to a small island in the eastern Aegean Sea.

Simitis is due to fly to Cyprus on Friday to be briefed on the crisis and attend the funeral for Solomou, 26.

'Cold blood'

After reviewing a United Nations report on the incidents, the Greek Cypriot representative at the U.N. said the killings of the two men were unjustified.

"One of them was beaten to death and the other was shot in cold blood. A report from the United Nations that came out (Thursday) makes that very clear," Nicos Agathocleous said in New York during a live interview on CNN. Solomou was "not threatening anybody," he said.


Separately, the U.S. State Department Thursday accused Turkish Cypriot security forces of using excessive force in trying to quell Wednesday's demonstration.

To deter future anti-Turkey demonstrators, Greek Cypriot authorities are having ditches dug and barbed wire barricades installed.

'Go with a gun'

Gustave Feissel, head of the U.N. mission in Cyprus, told CNN's Jerrold Kessel he's hopeful the shock of the double tragedy can produce something "positive." (400K AIFF or WAV sound) icon

Turkey on Thursday asked members of the U.N. Security Council to pressure Cyprus into halting Greek Cypriot demonstrations along the buffer zone.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded following a Greek-backed coup on the island. Turkey now has some 30,000 troops in the northern third of Cyprus.

Many Greeks on the island, including Solomou's family, are refugees from the Turkish-controlled zone. "The Turks pulled him out when he was just four," said Solomou's father, Spiros.

He and other Greek Cypriots speak often of a "major dilemma," Kessel reported. Although they call it their right and duty to protest the Turkish army presence, they fear they may find it necessary to "go with a gun," said Solomou's brother, Kostas.

Turkish Cypriots declared independence on their part of the island in 1983, but their self-declared republic is recognized only by Turkey. The Greek Cypriot government is internationally recognized.

Correspondent Jerrold Kessel, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.


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