The UN buffer zone in Cyprus (also referred to as the Green Line) inside the east end of which lies Famagusta, stretches a total of 180km, spanning the full length of the country from west to east and covering an area of around 350 km². It splits the island into two parts, Turkish and Greek, with the south constituting the Republic of Cyprus, a UN and EU member state and the north a de facto republic (TRNC) recognised by Turkey.
Effectively it partitions Cyprus into two entities or perhaps taking into account the significance of the Zone itself, turning in many ways into a further autonomous entity, it results in three distinct overall parts. Thousands of Cypriots on a daily basis cross the Buffer Zone at the only 6 designated crossing points in order to work or visit the ‘other side’, but their stay inside it, however, functions exactly as its name describes: as a buffer, a transit period between the two areas. Still the Zone although accounting for only around 3% of the island, has turned into a separate geopolitical body of its own that will potentially play a vital strategic, political and economic role in the case of a reunification of the island’s north and south parts.
In more detail it encompasses a highly diverse and conflicting urban and rural landscape, which can be seen as a miniature scape of Cyprus as a whole. Starting with a mountainous coastal terrain at the Kokkina enclave at the west, crossing through Morphou valley up to the bombarded old Nicosia International Airport, before it narrows down to its smallest width of only three meters at the section that cuts through Nicosia, the last divided capital of Europe. From Nicosia and eastwards it stretches to its maximum width of 7.4 km to encompass the inhabited village of Athienou, before aligning with the British military bases and through the Mesaoria valley reaching the densely built east waterfront of the ghost city of Famagusta.
This diverse landscape, deserted or inhabited, urban or rural will be the broader scope of the Cyprus Visiting School, as we aim to map the whole of the UN Buffer zone over a series of recurring workshops.