Australia departs from the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) at an important moment in Cyprus’ history, Elizabeth Spehar, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in Cyprus and Head of Mission, said on Friday, and expressed hope that Cyprus would soon be reunified.
Speaking at the Australian Flag Lowering Ceremony, Spehar said “Australia has been sending its finest to this mission for 53 years, from UNFICYP’s earliest days,” adding that “Australia’s sustained support to UNFICYP is but one example of the country’s deep commitment to peace and security worldwide, reflected in its place within the top 12 financial contributors to UN peacekeeping globally.”
Spehar referred to the role of Australia in UNFICYP and pointed out that “Australia’s important role in this mission, and the collegiality and professionalism of its police officers, will be sorely missed.”
“At the same time, UNFICYP wishes Australia’s police force continued success as the country focuses its police resources on other challenges and opportunities, both domestically and as a key component of the country’s peacekeeping, stabilisation and capacity-building efforts in its own region. We are also encouraged by the commitment of Australia to offer its assistance to the parties for the development of a future federal police force of a united Cyprus. Yours is a successful model from which Cyprus could surely benefit significantly,” she said.
Spehar noted that the Australian police “depart as we enter a potentially defining moment in the island’s history,” adding that “it is our sincere hope that the continuation of the negotiations in Switzerland at month’s end will bear fruit, and that the long sought-after goal of a re-unified island will be realised.”
“Australia has been a firm supporter of the reunification talks and of a Cyprus in peace, including through its involvement in this mission, and for that I must sincerely thank the Australian Government, including its High Commissioner here in Cyprus, Mr. Alan Sweetman, with whom we enjoy excellent collaboration,” she said.
In her speech, Spehar also paid tribute to the three Australian police officers who lost their lives while serving with UNFICYP.