With Cyprus’ collapsed unity talks set to resume this month in Geneva, Australia – which has had civilian police on the island as part of the United Nations peacekeeping force UNFICYP for 53 years – said it will withdraw the force.
As of December 2016, there were seven Australian police officers serving in the United Nations Police (Unpol), one of 14 countries which have a total of 67 officers serving in Cyprus along a buffer zone in the capital Nicosia, separating Cypriots from Turks who have unlawfully occupied the northern third of the island since a 1974 invasion.
The UN has suggested it would remove all its forces unless Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci find a solution to reunify the island, a problem that’s evaded a legion of diplomats and envoys for more than four decades.
The Australian unit will leave by the end of the month, the paper said although it couldn’t get confirmation from UNFICYP, whose magazine earlier reported that this year’s traditional Anzac Day dawn service was the last for the 111th contingent of the Australian Federal Police, and Australian officials attended the ceremony in the buffer zone to honor fallen soldiers.
Contingent Commander Bronwyn Carter said during the ceremony: “On this day, mindful of the awful costs of war, we renew our commitment to make peace and to keep peace. It is fitting that we do so here in Cyprus, where the troops and police of many countries have come to build and maintain peace and security.”
According to Australian accounts of their history with Cyprus, in May 1964, the first unit of police officers from Australia, numbering 40, arrived on the island. Australia did not want to commit troops to the UN mission at the time.