Turkey Upset UN Renewed Cyprus Peacekeeping Force

FILE - Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, reacts during a new round of the conference on Cyprus under the auspices of the United Nations, in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, Friday, June 30, 2017. (Jean-Christophe Bott/Keystone via AP)

Turkey, one of the three guarantors of security on Cyprus, split by an unlawful Turkish invasion in 1974, said the United Nations Security Council shouldn’t have extended the mission of a peacekeeping force on the island as it has for decades.

Turkey said keeping the UN force on the island along with its own force as well as security guarantees from Greece and the United Kingdom, the former Colonial ruler that still has a military base there, was incompatible with previous UN reports, said Ahval, an independent online news site about Turkey.

The decision to extend the mandate will ensure the presence of UN peacekeeping forces on the Eastern Mediterranean island for the next six months, a routine approval that has gone on for scores of years to keep the two sides from fighting.

Cyprus’ legitimate government, a member of the European Union that Turkey wants to join while barring Cypriot ships and planes, had wanted to the UN force mission extended in the wake of collapsed unity talks in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana.

Jonathan Cohen, the United States’ acting permanent representative to the UN, said while perpetual peacekeeping forces aren’t the right idea that for now it allow for reconfiguration of UN activities on the island without explaining what that meant.

The peacekeeping force on the island was formed in 1964 after a bout of communal violence. Turkey said the extension contradicted statements made on Cyprus by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres who was at the failed Swiss talks.

“Both in his report on his Mission of Good Offices in Cyprus dated 15 October 2018 and his latest report on the UN operations in Cyprus dated 11 January 2019, submitted to the UN Security Council, UN secretary-general had emphasised the need for new ideas, without referring to a specific settlement model,” the Cyprus Mail quoted the Turkish government as saying.

“Despite this fact, in this most recent resolution, the UN Security Council has adopted a position which goes beyond the UN secretary-general’s views. Moreover, the UN Security Council has voiced prejudgments regarding the result of the ongoing contacts by the UN official assigned on a temporary basis by the UN secretary-general and the possible future shape of the settlement process,” it said.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry also criticized the UN for failing to consult with Turkish-Cypriot officials and their leader, Mustafa Akincin, on the occupied northern third, complaining they hadn’t wanted a full withdrawal of UN peacekeeping forces (UNFICYP) but that the terms of their mandate could be revised.

“UN Peacekeepers were first sent to Cyprus in March 1964. That means 55 years. UNFICYP should not become a symbol of the status quo on the island nor should the mandate serve to further encourage the Greek Cypriot side’s reluctance to work towards a settlement,” Cyprus Mail quoted Akıncı as saying.

The Greek-Cypriot side, however, said the incident had shown that Turkey was attempting to create “chaos” while the Greek administration sought an end to the dispute.

“(For) decades now Turkey is blocking a solution apparently because it has other plans,” the newspaper quoted Greek Cypriot government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou as saying.

Turkey is the only country that recognizes its self-declared Republic. The last round of reunification talks broke off when Akinci and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said they would never remove an army on the occupied land and wanted the right to military intervene again when they wanted.

Guterres wants the talks restarted although after the Swiss debacle he released a report blaming neither side yet now saying he’s optimistic a solution can be found without explaining why.

He sent American diplomat Jane Holl Lute to talk to both sides in a bid to get them to talk again but Akinci he fears time is running out and the island headed for permanent division.