The Buffer Zone
Cyprus has been divided into a Turkish-Cypriot northern region and a Greek-Cypriot southern region since 1974. UNFICYP is responsible for the area that separates the two sides, or the Buffer Zone.
The zone - also called ‘the Green Line’ - extends approximately 180 kilometers across the island. In some places in old Nicosia it is only a few meters wide. In other places it is a few kilometers wide. Its northern and southern limits are the lines where the belligerents stood following the ceasefire of 16 August 1974, as recorded by UNFICYP.
In the eastern part of the island, the Buffer Zone is interrupted by the British Sovereign Base Area of Dhekelia, where the UN does not operate. Another area the UN does not control is Varosha, the former resort town near Famagusta, now under the control of the Turkish military.
In line with UNFICYP’s mandate to work toward a return to normal conditions, parts of the buffer zone are farmed and/or inhabited. There are several villages or special areas (called Civil Use Areas) within the buffer zone, where more than 10,000 people live and/or work. Civilians may enter these areas freely. Elsewhere in the buffer zone, civilian movement or activity requires specific authorization from UNFICYP. Located in the eastern region of the buffer zone, Pyla is the only village where Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots live side by side.
Other areas are largely untouched by human activity. Remnants of old villages, shops and other reminders of lives once lived are scattered throughout the zone. In old Nicosia, ‘new’ cars from the 1970s sit in an underground garage once owned by a car dealer.
As Cyprus has experienced heady development, the buffer zone has remained a haven for flora and fauna, thriving on the near absence of hunters and most other human interference.
UNFICYP keeps permanent watch over the buffer zone with patrols in vehicles, on foot, on bicycles and by helicopter. Additionally, a highly mobile unit stands ready to respond to emergencies within the buffer zone.
Approximately 1,000 incidents occur within the buffer zone each year, ranging from name-calling to unauthorised use of firearms. Civilian construction is also a regular issue and UNFICYP always has to consider security, ownership and operational requirements in its effort to encourage a return to normal conditions in the buffer zone.
Since April 2003, a number of crossing points have opened up between the north and the south: two in the British Sovereign Base Area at Pergamos and Strovilia, three in Nicosia at Ayios Demotios/Metehan, Ledra Palace and Ledra Street and one west of Nicosia toward the Troodos mountains, at Astromeritis/Zodhia.