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Sunday, November 16, 1997 Published at 13:59 GMT


Peaceful protests highlight Cyprus division

A demonstration by Greek Cypriots against the creation of a breakaway Turkish state on the island 14 years ago has passed off peacefully.

The organisers had called on thousands of refugees to try driving their cars across the UN-patrolled Green Line into the north of the divided island but a strong Greek Cypriot police presence prevented it.

The main demonstration in Nicosia ended much sooner than expected. The number of vehicles and people taking part was far fewer than the organisers had hoped for and a show of strength by the security forces made it obvious no-one was going to get across the buffer zone.

A few protesters came close but were quickly caught and sent back behind the barbed wire barrackades. However, a BBC correspondent says those protesters who turned up driving cars, trucks and motorbikes - one elderly woman even drove her tractor and plough - will be happy they've made their point.

The security forces will remain on full alert in Nicosia because several hundred motorcyclists are due to complete their drive from the coast and attend a rally in the city centre.

"We demand to return"

Earlier, Aris Hadjipanayiotou, president of the anti-occupation organisation, PAK, said: "Our aim is to tell the big powers like the US and other countries who can help Cyprus that the refugees will not accept a solution that does not give them back their homes."

Dozens of cars were plastered with posters declaring, "We demand to return to our homes now" and "Freedom or Death".

Police were out in force to prevent violence stemming from the demonstrations against the proclamation on November 15, 1983 of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is recognised only by Ankara.

The TRNC was set up nine years after Turkish troops invaded the northern sector following a coup in Nicosia seeking to unite the island with Greece.

Their leaders insisted the demonstration would not be provocative but previous experience had shown that others joining in were keener to enter the buffer zone and provoke some sort of incident. This time, however, the police and special forces took much better precautions.

Large numbers of Cypriot police manned razor-wire barriers barring access to the buffer zone to prevent any repeat of incidents last year in which two Greek Cypriot demonstrators were killed.

Peace mission

The bikers, some of them from Greece, are expected to attempt to reach the spot in the buffer zone near the eastern village of Dherynia where a Greek Cypriot was beaten to death in clashes with Turkish Cypriots in August last year.

Two days later another Greek Cypriot was shot dead by soldiers as he climbed a flagpole on the Turkish side.

The Turkish Deputy Prime Minister, Bulent Ecevit, is due to join celebrations in the north marking the breakaway. The anniversary comes days after US presidential envoy for Cyprus, Richard Holbrooke, made his first peace mission to the island and held talks with the Cyprus President, Glafcos Clerides, and the Turkish-Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktash.

Mr Holbrooke later said he was encouraged by the show of goodwill during a seminar joining Greek, Turkish and Cypriots businessmen, hoping it will help end the division of Cyprus.

"Cooperation is mutually beneficial. That theory was absolutely borne out," Holbrooke said at the end of the two-day seminar in Brussels.

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