The Ledra Palace, the once luxurious hotel which served as barracks for UN peacekeepers, is no longer suitable to house the troops who have been moved to prefabricated buildings behind the hotel, Euronews reports in a story on the abandoned hotel in the Nicosia buffer zone.
“Once the playground of the Cyprus elite, the Ledra Palace hotel in the capital Nicosia now stands as a poignant symbol of ethnic division on the island nation,” Euronews writes.
Finished in 1949, the 240-room Ledra Palace was one of the places to be in Cyprus, even hosting Hollywood stars. “Located near the centre of Nicosia’s medieval core and its surrounding Venetian-built, 16th-century walls, the hotel’s luxurious ballroom, restaurants and bars were the places to see and be seen,” Euronews writes.
The first soldiers moved in the hotel in 1963 December 1963. Fifteen British troops had been stationed there to keep the peace during the intercommunal strife.
Following the truce after the invasion of 1974 and the extension of the Green Line of 1964, it was announced that the hotel fell within the boundaries of the buffer zone.
“The Ledra Palace sits at the heart of this zone, still maintaining a flicker of its old majesty despite the mortar shell craters and bullet holes scarring its sandstone facade,” Euronews says.
Currently, the hotel serves as the headquarters for Sector 2 United Nations Roulement Regiment (URR) part of UNFICYP.
“It’s been 45 years since the pitter-patter of high heels was replaced by the thud of soldiers’ combat boots pacing its floors, when United Nations peacekeepers took over the hotel as their barracks,” Euronews says.
The network comments on the building’s conditions and says that it is now not suitable to host the troops.
Renovations to bring the hotel up to modern safety standards are too costly, so the upper two floors of the building previously occupied by the UN now sit empty.
Some 160 personnel have moved to prefabricated buildings behind the hotel, Euronews says.
However, UN spokesman Aleem Siddique Siddique says the hotel will remain a base for the soldiers whose task it is to patrol the zone and prevent tensions from rising between opposing soldiers, who in some areas are only metres apart. “This base is one of the most active areas of the buffer zone, it’s the old town of Nicosia where we have used the hotel to help bring the two communities together,” he said.
The hotel’s two lower floors will remain in use for events aimed at building bridges between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots.
Since 1974, Ledra Palace has played host to many high level meetings between Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders, as well as hundreds of structured conflict resolution workshops supported and facilitated both by international organisations and local pioneers.
The hotel has been the venue for meetings that helped shape the course of the island’s history, Euronews writes. “One such involved experts from Greece, Turkey and both Cypriot communities, who helped draft the constitution of Cyprus after it gained independence from British colonial rule in 1960,” Euronews writes.
As for the hotel’s current role, Siddique says: “We still have an important job here every day. Our peacekeepers diligently patrol the buffer zone using Ledra Palace as a base to prevent tensions from rising within the buffer zone and to defuse tensions between the opposing forces, and that important work continues.”
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