Forest fires delay peace talks in divided Cyprus

Forest fires delay peace talks in divided Cyprus

Forest fires delay peace talks in divided Cyprus

AFP Photo

The United Nations-brokered peace talks scheduled to be held on June 21 to find a solution to the decades-long conflict on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus were delayed amid ongoing forest fires in the Greek Cypriot administration. 

The United Nations’ Good Offices announced on June 21 that Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades had requested to postpone the leaders’ meeting scheduled to take place on the same day in Nicosia. 

“The Turkish Cypriot leader, Mustafa Akıncı, expressed his full understanding and support,” read a part of the statement, adding that the next meeting would take place on June 23. 

In a separate statement issued on June 21 by his office, Akıncı expressed his condolences for the loss of two firefighters trying to tackle the ongoing forest fires in the Troodos Mountains on the Greek Cypriot side of the island. 

“On behalf of my nation and myself, I express my condolences to the families and loved ones of the people who have lost their lives,” said Akıncı.
“I share the grief of Greek Cyprus,” he added. 

Two firefighters died in hospital on June 20 from injuries suffered when the truck they were in plunged 40 meters down a cliff in the Solea valley, in the northern foothills of the Troodos Mountains, police stated, according to AFP.

Another man was injured in the accident near Evrychou, where the fire has destroyed at least 15 square kilometers of scenic countryside and forced the evacuation of parts of the village.

The two sides of Cyprus have been holding extensive peace talks since May 2015, with the leaders of both expressing hope for a solution in 2016. 

The blaze on the Mediterranean island began on June 19, just one day after firefighters managed to extinguish another huge fire at Argaka on the island’s northwest coast.

Police said they had arrested two people suspected of starting the earlier fire. They said a 12-year-old boy was suspected of starting the Evrychou blaze while playing with a lighter.

Five foreign governments deployed aircraft to Greek Cyprus on June 21 to help battle the island’s worst forest fires in years. 

France and Italy were the latest countries to send planes to assist more than 300 firefighters attempting to put out the blazes which have ran amok as the island swelters under temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius. Two British, four Greek and six Israeli aircraft were already helping to tackle the second massive wild fire to hit the Mediterranean holiday island in less than a week.

Akıncı’s presidential spokesperson Barış Burcu said June 20 that Akıncı had called Anastasiades on June 19 and offered to supply Greek Cyprus with aircrafts to put the fire out, according to a statement issued on the presidential office’s website on June 20. Burcu said Anastasiades thanked Akıncı and said that he would reconsider the offer if attempts to put the fire out where inadequate.