UN Extends Cyprus Peacekeeping Force Another Six Months

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)

ΝEW YORK – As expected, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has recommended keeping the UNFICYP on divided Cyprus, this time for six months, although there were rumblings it could have been withdrawn to force Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots to finally decide on a reunification plan.

“No progress was made in the further elaboration of such plans during the reporting period, however, because of the absence of new developments on the issue between the sides,” he said, the Cyprus Mail reported.

He had tried to broker a deal at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana but talks between Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci collapsed after Turkey refused to remove a standing army and demanded the right to militarily intervene. It has occupied the northern third since an unlawful 1974 invasion.

Guterres reiterated that “as stated in the report on my good offices mission in Cyprus dated 28 September 2017, my good offices remain available to assist the sides, should they jointly decide to re-engage in negotiations with the necessary political will,” although a report after the talks collapse blamed neither side and nobody for anything.

UNFICYP, he said in his report, “will continue to contribute, through its activities and assistance to the communities, to creating conditions conducive to a successful settlement process, including by supporting relevant confidence and trust-building initiatives.”

UNFICYP was established “to prevent a recurrence of fighting and, as necessary, to contribute to the maintenance and restoration of law and order and a return to normal conditions,” during troubled times between factions on the island, including Cypriots and Turks, 10 years before Turkey invaded.

That led UNFICYP, which failed to prevent the invasion, to since then supervise ceasefire lines and the border running through the capital of Nicosia and to be a deterrent against further military intervention, which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants.

Guterres said in an earlier report that the preventive and deterrent role of UNFICYP should be maintained for the time being after the possibility it could be withdrawn was danged before the two sides as an apparent incentive for a deal that never came.

“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, according to Kathimerini.

In the UNFICYP report he said that, “The review team has identified an opportunity for a limited reduction in the military strength of the mission, mainly with respect to the military support elements. In line with the findings of the review team as detailed in this report, I therefore recommend that the actual military strength of UNFICYP be reduced to 802 troops.”

“This need not be reflected in a reduction of the authorized strength; in fact, if the authorized strength were to remain at 860, it would allow some flexibility to increase deployment should the need arise, for example in support of eventually resumed settlement talks,” he added.