NICOSIA (Reuter)United Nations forces in Cyprus launched an inquiry into a shooting incident between Greek and Turkish Cypriots on the divided island on Thursday morning–UN officials said.
Opposing sides on the divided island gave different accounts of the incident–which took place between 2 and 3 a.m. in the vicinity of the Turkish-held village of Louroujina–12 miles southeast of Nicosia.
UN spokesman Waldemar Rokosewski said the force had information shots were delivered by both sides. "We are in touch with them to investigate this incident," he said–adding there were no immediate reports of injuries.
"At 0300 hours our patrol guards spotted two armed men attempting to lower our flag and three other armed men were spotted taking up position," Turkish Cypriot official Taner Etkin said.
"They opened fire to give cover to the two intruders and our patrol guards returned the fire. They escaped but blood stains were traced going across the buffer zone to the south," he said. "We have lodged a very strong protest with the UN."
Yiannakis Cassoulides–the Greek Cypriot government spokesman–categorically denied suggestions the army was involved in any incident and said police had no information of civilian injuries.
"Our National Guard denies any involvement whatsoever in the alleged incident," he told Reuters. "There have been no casualties in the National Guard and all the National Guard arms have been checked and they have not been used."
"The only thing we confirm is that around 2 a.m. our National Guard heard shots within the (Turkish) occupation lines," he added.
Cyprus police spokesman Glafcos Xenos said the UN informed them Turkish forces "fired against two persons allegedly approaching their positions from the free areas."
"According to what we have been told (by the UN) they were holding rifles and ran off toward the direction of the free areas when Turkish forces fired shots in their direction," he said.
Tensions in Cyprus flared last month by a row over Greek Cypriot plans to deploy anti-aircraft missiles in the south of the island and Turkish threats of a military strike to block their deployment.
Four Greek Cypriots and one Turkish Cypriot soldier were killed in violent incidents last year in and around the island’s buffer zone.
UN efforts spanning decades to reunite the island under a bi-zonal federation have floundered– while the ongoing dispute remains a source of tension between Greece and Turkey–NATO allies but bitter rivals in a volatile region.