UN Chief Guterres Wants to Cut Cyprus Peacekeeping Force

FILE - In this March 8, 2017 file photo, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during a press conference at the UN in Nairobi, Kenya. (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi, File)

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who failed to help broker a unity deal for Cyprus, now has recommended reducing a peacekeeping force on the island that’s been divided since an unlawful 1974 Turkish invasion.

He said there should be reduction in force from 888 to 860 in the units that have been on the dividing line for decades even though Turkey, Greece and the United Kingdom, the former Colonial ruler which still has a military base there, are guarantors of security.

Guterres, who took office earlier this year after a series of other UN chiefs had also failed to find an answer to the Cyprus dilemma, insisted that a smaller peacekeeping unit, known as UNFICYP, would still be a deterrent and hold its ability to be an observation, liaison and engagement force, the Cyprus Mail reported on his recommendation.

In his report an unofficial copy of which was handed over  to UN Security Council members in New York, Guterres noted that “UNFICYP will thus remain, for the time being, an infantry-based peacekeeping operation, but with a strengthened observation and liaison component. This represents a further step in the direction already taken after the review of UNFICYP of 2004.”

“It will make the Mission more effective in maintaining calm in the buffer zone and preventing tensions from escalating, thus helping to create conditions conducive to a resumption of settlement talks. At the same time, the efficiencies identified by the review team will, once fully implemented, allow for measurable savings in the UNFICYP budget,” in the typical diplomatic language the UN uses without providing details of any kind.

“I, therefore, concur with the recommendation of the review team that the preventive and deterrent role of UNFICYP should be maintained for the time being. While the actual impact of such a role is very difficult to ascertain, the risk associated with any drastic reduction of the Force is not justified under present circumstances,” Guterres said.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades broke off negotiations with Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana in July after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has the last word on his side, said he would never remove an army on the occupied northern third and wanted the right to invade further when he wanted.