Fighting between ethnic Turks and Greeks in the disputed island of Cyprus has left at least 16 people dead.
Shots started to be exchanged between the two sides’ lines in the port town of Limassol late yesterday afternoon.
Four Greek Cypriots including a schoolgirl were reported to have been injured in the shooting before a ceasefire was negotiated.
Soon after ambulances driven by RAF personnel went into the area of fighting to bring out the wounded.
However, fighting resumed at around dawn on Wednesday morning.
By the time peace was restored the Greek Cypriots had succeeded in ousting the Turkish Cypriots from their last remaining strongholds in Limassol including Berengaria Castle.
The island’s two main ethnic groups have been involved in a civil war since last year.
In 1960 Cyprus gained independence from Britain after a long and sometimes violent campaign by some ethnic Greeks who wanted Cyprus to become part of Greece.
The “Zurich Settlement” which set down terms for independence included a scheme of political proportional representation reflecting the fact that 82% of the population are ethnically Greek.
However, many ethnic Turks felt the system was unfair and received backing from Turkey whilst many Greeks wanted Cyprus to become part of Greece.
Greece and Turkey have been close to war several times with both claiming ownership of the island.
Britain now has a “truce force” stationed on the island which it ruled from 1914.
So far British soldiers have not got involved in the fighting and it is hoped that Cyprus’ President Makarios will accept a bigger force from the Commonwealth to take their place.
In the wake of the fighting the US is planning to evacuate its citizens from Cyprus to Beirut.
However, Britain is advising about 2,000 families of service personnel in Limassol to stay put apart from those living near the Turkish quarter.
Courtesy BBC News
A total of 21 people died during the fighting in Limassol.
In March 1964 the United Nations sent a 7,000-strong peacekeeping force to Cyprus.
Cyprus has been partitioned since 1974, when a Greek-inspired coup prompted a Turkish invasion of the northern third of the island.
Since then Greek and Turkish Cypriots have been divided by a so-called “green line”, patrolled by UN soldiers.
Thousands of ethnic Greeks were displaced from their homes and many have never returned.
The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was declared in 1983, but has been recognised only by Turkey itself.
A UN plan put to a referendum on 24 April 2004 envisaged a federation of two states – one Greek and the other Turkish – with a loose central government, on the Swiss model with a symbolic, alternating presidency.
It was rejected decisively by the Greek Cypriots but accepted by the Turkish Cypriots. EU membership only applies in the Greek sector.