Cypriot politician pulls down flag at U.N. buffer zone

A Greek Cypriot politician on Tuesday entered the buffer zone dividing Cyprus and pulled down the flag at a disputed Turkish guard post. "The Turks came to the area, they pointed their weapons at me but did not shoot," Marios Matsakis, a firebrand member of the European Parliament, told The Associated Press.

In August 1996, Greek Cypriot Solomos Solomou was shot dead by Turkish troops while climbing a flagpole in the buffer zone at Dherynia, on the southeastern coast of the Mediterranean island.

The 180-kilometer (110-mile) buffer zone separates the island's Greek Cypriot-controlled south from the Turkish-occupied north. Turkey invaded in 1974 after an Athens-backed coup by supporters of union with Greece.

Matsakis, the former state coroner, said he entered the buffer zone in Lurudjina, around 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of the capital Nicosia, and removed the flag from a recently built Turkish guard post.

He said he then ran back to the Greek Cypriot-controlled area and went home.

Matsakis said he was not afraid his action could have provoked a serious incident, according to the AP.

"I will lodge an official complaint (about the guard post) in the European Parliament, and I plan to present the Turkish flag to the president of the (European) Parliament," he said.

At the same brick guard post, Turkish troops pointed their weapons at U.N. peacekeepers investigating a construction violation on Aug. 31, a U.N. statement said Monday, in response to a newspaper report revealing the incident. Part of the disputed construction had since been dismantled, the statement said.

The commanding officer of the Turkish forces later apologized and blamed the incident on a misunderstanding, the U.N. statement said.

Matsakis, a member of the ruling Democratic Party, is currently under investigation for alleged illegal possession of antiques and attempted blackmail of a police officer.


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