Another aspect of the situation in Cyprus: 50 years UNFICYP and its contribution to Cyprus. Over these 50 years no less than 100,000 peacekeepers, women and men, have served in Cyprus!
Byline: compilation of articles by Press & Culture Office, Embassy of the Republic of Cyprus
The United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) is one of the longest-running UN Peacekeeping missions. It was set up in 1964 to prevent further fighting between the Greek and Turkish communities on the island and bring about a return to normal conditions.
The Mission’s responsibilities expanded ten years later in 1974, following a coup d’ etat against the legitimate government of Cyprus by elements favoring union with Greece and a subsequent military intervention on the pretext to protect its brethren on the island by Turkey, whose troops established control of about 37 percent of this South Eastern Mediterranean island’ areas since!
What led to the need for UNFICYP
Cyprus had become an independent state just four years earlier. The de-colonization struggle for the right of self-determination of this island with a predominant Greek population was met in the 1950s with fierce resistance by the then colonial rulers. Diplomatic efforts to solve the problem failed; and a guerrilla war and civil disobedience tactics were launched by Greeks Cypriots between the years 1955-1959.
The Republic of Cyprus was finally set up as the only option left on the negotiating table. This decision was taken in the absence of Cypriots themselves because the situation was considered then as a Greco-Turkish affair and a problem among north Atlantic allies; the island’s indigenous leaders – Greeks and Turks alike, were just invited to verify an agreement drafted and agreed among its guarantors, providing for an exceptional constitution which introduced segregated institutions, the concept of third countries with intervening powers which contradicted the UN Charter, the stationing of armies from motherlands for the security of the Greeks and Turks living on the island; and the set up of two military bases under a unique, complex regime.
Tensions between the Greek- and Turkish-Cypriots climaxed three – four years after the establishment of the new state when then President Archbishop Makarios III proposed Constitutional amendments in an attempt to make it more proportionate to the understanding of the Greeks. Extremists on both sides took the lead and inter-communal strife broke out. The authorities of the young state were found ineffectual to deal with the militia of both sides who were supported by forces outside the island.
Enter the UNFICYP
Fifty years have passed since the decision was taken unanimously by the UN Security Council on March 4, 1964, for the establishment of UNFICYP. Its presence on the island is described as necessary and indispensable by politicians, military and diplomats, who have one way or another been engaged with the situation in Cyprus.
Since 1964, no less than 100,000 peacekeepers, women and men, have served in Cyprus and almost 180 UN personnel have lost their lives while serving in UNFICYP.
The Mission currently counts almost 1100 personnel.
Since a de facto ceasefire in August 1974, UNFICYP has supervised the ceasefire lines; provided humanitarian assistance; and maintained a buffer zone between the Turkish forces in the north and the Cypriot forces in the south.
However fifty years on and UNFICYP’s presence on the island is as indispensable as ever. Its mandate is renewed every six months by the Security Council.
UNFICYP supports the fullest possible resumption of normal civilian activity in the buffer zone, keeping in mind that this is still an area under permanent armed watch by military on both sides. To this end, it facilitates the resumption of farming in the buffer zone where safe, and assists both communities on matters related to the supply of electricity and water across the lines.
The Mission is currently headed by Lisa M. Buttenheim of the United States, who is the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of Mission and in that capacity leads efforts to assist the Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot leaders in reaching a comprehensive settlement.
Another woman, Norwegian Major-General Kristin Lund was appointed last May as the new Force Commander of the peacekeeping operation in Cyprus, making history at the United Nations. In the six and a half decades of UN peacekeeping operations, they have had scores of male force commanders – but Major-General Lund is the first woman in such a position.
The role of UNFICYP in Cyprus
Commenting on its contribution to Cyprus on the occasion to mark 50 years since the establishment of the Mission, Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades pointed out that the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus contributes to efforts towards a political settlement and towards maintaining and restoring order, while at the same time it provides humanitarian aid to the population affected by the consequence of the invasion and occupation of part of the island.
Moreover, Cyprus Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides repeated that the presence of the peacekeeping force in necessary until a settlement of the Cyprus problem is reached and until peace prevails on the island.
Attempts to solve the Cyprus conflict and reunify the island are ongoing. A new round of fully fledged negotiations under the good offices of the UN Secretary General was launched on 11th February 2014, after five months of preparations. This will be our 6th attempt; hopefully the last and successful one.
A new catalyst can be the findings of natural gas and oil off shore of the southern waters of Cyprus. Common sense and basic economics dictate that the significant quantities of natural gas which exists in the South Eastern Mediterranean basin should find its way to Europe through Turkey; but first we have to solve the Cyprus issue.