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Politics

60 Years of Peacekeeping Forces, Hope and Frustration on Cyprus

NICOSIA – The belief that the Cyprus problem is still ‘solvable’ was expressed by the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in Cyprus and Head of UNFICYP, Colin Stewart, speaking at a reception on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the peacekeeping force’s presence in Cyprus. However, as the UN official pointed out, “to get there we need political courage, a willingness to make difficult decisions, to criticise and to compromise.”

It has been 60 years since the adoption of UN Resolution 186/1964, which established the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), one of the longest-serving peacekeeping missions of the UN.

It was on March 4, 1964, when Resolution 186 was adopted by the Security Council, establishing UNFICYP with the aim, among other things, to contribute to the maintenance and restoration of law and order and the return to normal conditions initially for a period of three months. However, it has remained for 60 years!

Military Police officers serving with the United Nations peacekeeping force (UNFICYP) in ethnically-divided Cyprus walk during a parade marking the 60th anniversary of the force’s inception, inside a U.N. controlled buffer zone that separates breakaway Turkish Cypriots in the north and Greek Cypriots in the internationally recognized south, on Monday, March 4, 2024. More than 150,000 peacekeepers from 43 countries have served with UNFICYP since 1964 with 187 soldiers and staff losing their lives while serving with the mission. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

Thus, in a modest ceremony at the Fallen Peacekeepers Memorial in Kosi, Foreign Minister Konstantinos Kombos of the Republic of Cyprus honored the fallen by laying a wreath. It is recalled that on August 14, 1974 a Turkish military aircraft bombed the area of Kosi and struck a UN vehicle.

In a message on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of UNFICYP’s presence in Cyprus on platform X, the Assistant Secretary-General of the UN responsible for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, paid tribute to the contribution of the Force personnel: “For almost 50 of those years, in the absence of a formal ceasefire agreement UNFICYP, peacekeepers have successfully de-escalated tension in the buffer zone and prevented conflict… every day, they continue to make efforts to foster peace.”

Lacroix said that, “I also pay tribute to the 187 peacekeepers and staff who have lost their lives while serving under the United Nations flag in Cyprus,” adding “this 60-year milestone for UNFICYP is a sobering reminder of just how long the people of Cyprus have been waiting for a resolution.”

Two veterans who served with the United Nations peacekeeping force in ethnically-divided Cyprus (UNFICYP) walk during a parade marking the 60th anniversary of the force’s inception, inside a U.N. controlled buffer zone that separates breakaway Turkish Cypriots in the north and Greek Cypriots in the internationally recognized south, on Monday, March 4, 2024. More than 150,000 peacekeepers from 43 countries have served with UNFICYP since 1964 with 187 soldiers and staff losing their lives while serving with the mission. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

In his speech at the reception at the Ledra Palace Hotel, within the buffer zone in Nicosia, UN Special Representative Stewart said, among other things, that at this moment, he sees Stewart “glimmer of opportunity” regarding Cyprus, noting that Greece and Turkey are experiencing a ‘friendlier moment’, the Greek Cypriot leader is actively pushing for a new political process, and for the first time in seven years there is a UN Secretary-General personal envoy.

He believes the substance of the dispute has already been discussed and convergences achieved. Referring to the appointment of Maria Angela Holguin Cuellar as the Personal Envoy of the UN Secretary-General, Stewart said that almost seven years after the most recent talks in Crans-Montana, the opportunity for the political process was renewed with this appointment, which, as he said, reflects the continuing commitment of the Secretary-General to support the two sides to find a way forward.

However, he noted, it is an opportunity that must not be missed, saying that it is “becoming increasingly clear that time is running out as the space for a mutually acceptable solution narrows every year… We do not know whether or not there will be another opportunity if this one fails. We cannot afford to wait and see what happens.”

Members of the Grenadier band stand during a parade marking the 60th anniversary of the force’s inception, inside a U.N. controlled buffer zone that separates breakaway Turkish Cypriots in the north and Greek Cypriots in the internationally recognized south, on Monday, March 4, 2024. More than 150,000 peacekeepers from 43 countries have served with UNFICYP since 1964 with 187 soldiers and staff losing their lives while serving with the mission. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

Referring to the speech of the UN Secretary-General last year at the General Assembly, Stewart said that he reminded that politics is compromise, diplomacy is compromise, effective leadership is compromise, that leaders have a responsibility to achieve compromise in building a common future of peace and prosperity for the common good. “That means by definition, through negotiations, through compromise, through win-win, through something that is good enough to everyone. And that’s going to require political courage and you know that is of a short supply.”

He stated that the 60th anniversary of the United Nations’ presence in Cyprus “is a sad reminder to all of us that the Cyprus issue remains unresolved for too long, despite all the efforts made to find a solution.”

Soldiers serving with the United Nations peacekeeping force (UNFICYP) in ethnically-divided Cyprus stand during a parade marking the 60th anniversary of the force’s inception, inside a U.N. controlled buffer zone that separates breakaway Turkish Cypriots in the north and Greek Cypriots in the internationally recognized south, on Monday, March 4, 2024. More than 150,000 peacekeepers from 43 countries have served with UNFICYP since 1964 with 187 soldiers and staff losing their lives while serving with the mission. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

However, even if the talks have not yet succeeded in bringing a solution, he added, this does not mean that the work done for the process over decades has been lost. On the contrary, each round of talks has brought us much closer to a settlement,” he said.

Among those present at the reception were the President of the House of Representatives, Annita Dimitriou, Ambassadors of foreign countries, UNFICYP veterans, officials, and representatives of civil society from both communities.

Veterans who served with the United Nations peacekeeping force in ethnically-divided Cyprus (UNFICYP) sit during a parade marking the 60th anniversary of the force’s inception, inside a U.N. controlled buffer zone that separates breakaway Turkish Cypriots in the north and Greek Cypriots in the internationally recognized south, on Monday, March 4, 2024. More than 150,000 peacekeepers from 43 countries have served with UNFICYP since 1964 with 187 soldiers and staff losing their lives while serving with the mission. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

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