UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has recommended that the mandate of UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) be extended for six more months.

In his report on the United Nations Operation in Cyprus, which was given unofficially to the members of the Security Council, and covers developments from 21 November 2010 to 20 May 2011, Ban notes that during the reporting period, UNFICYP has continued to maintain the integrity and stability of the buffer zone.

“It is my firm belief that UNFICYP continues to play an important role on the island in maintaining the calm and fostering bi-communal cooperation and trust. The Mission also works closely with the Office of my Special Advisor and the United Nations agencies and
programmes which are actively engaged in promoting an atmosphere conducive for the negotiations. I recommend, therefore, that the Security Council extend the mandate of UNFICYP for six months, until 15 December 2011“, he notes.

During the reporting period, says the UNSG, “there has been a further decrease in military violations committed by the National Guard and the Turkish Forces in comparison with the previous reporting period. Co-operation from both opposing forces, as well as the working relationship with the respective chains of command, have been positive“.

In his report Ban notes that “there has been no progress during the reporting period in advancing the consideration of confidence-building measures of a military nature“.

“While the National Guard has worked with UNFICYP on assessing the proposals, as I have previously reported, UNFICYP still awaits concrete steps from the Turkish Forces/Turkish Cypriot Security Forces“, he adds.

He also notes that civilian activities in the buffer zone, including housing construction, farming, animal husbandry and other commercial ventures, have increased during the reporting period.

During the reporting period, SG says in his report that certain incidents contributed to raising tensions between the two communities and required UNFICYP intervention and mediation.

On 21 December 2010, he points out, a European club basketball match “in south Nicosia between a visiting Turkish team and a Greek Cypriot team was marred by acts of hooliganism by Greek Cypriot fans against the Turkish team players”.

“Cyprus police intervened decisively at the stadium and provided protection to the team until its departure. Following Turkish Cypriot representations on behalf of the Turkish team, UNFICYP engaged in mediation at an operational and political level to defuse the situation. The incident was subsequently condemned by both sides“, he goes on to note.

He also states that on 25 December 2010, “Turkish Cypriot police interrupted a Christmas service for the Greek Cypriot residents in the Karpas Panninsula”.

“On 17 March, Turkish Cypriot authorities confiscated 204 books of a religious nature, which the Greek Cypriot side had sought to transport to the north”, he adds.

“In both instances, UNFICYP made representations to the Turkish Cypriot authorities, who defended their actions on the basis that, in each case, the longstanding authorization procedures had not been followed. In March, the Turkish Cypriot authorities revised existing procedures for Greek Cypriots to obtain permission for religious observances at places of worship in the north“, he notes.

In his report Ban states that restrictions on the movement of locally employed United Nations civilian personnel regrettably continue.

“The freedom of movement for all United Nations personnel is a matter of principle to the Organization and an operational requirement for UNFICYP, and I call on the Turkish Cypriot authorities to respect this principle“, he stresses.

The UNSG points out that “the establishment of economic, social, cultural, sporting or similar ties and contacts will have a positive impact on the ongoing negotiations“.

“Such contacts nurture a sentiment of trust between the communities and help address the concerns of isolation expressed by the Turkish Cypriots. Further, greater economic and social parity between the sides will make the eventual reunification not only easier but also more likely“, he adds.

During the reporting period, SG notes that the Committee on Missing Persons continued to carry forward its bi-communal project on the exhumation, identification and return of remains of missing persons.

“By May 2011, the remains of nearly 800 individuals had been exhumed on both sides of the island by the Committee’s bi-communal teams of archaeologists. The remains of 463 missing persons had undergone examination at the Committee’s bi-communal
anthropological laboratory in the United Nations Protected Area in Nicosia. Following DNA genetic analysis of 1280 samples, carried out by a bi-communal team of scientists at the Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics, the remains of 278 individuals have been returned to their respective families to date, including 15 during the reporting period“, he states.

The UN SG stresses that UNFICYP has facilitated four meetings of the Committee on Crossings over the reporting period, as well as several site visits carried out separately by the respective teams to different locations in the buffer zone where further crossings could be opened.

“In these meetings and as evidenced by the extensive research and consultation carried out, both sides demonstrated a constructive engagement and good will. As a result, all parties are positively disposed to a crossing south of Apliki in the Lefka area. The Greek Cypriot side also seeks a crossing to the east and south-east of Nicosia, linking the capital to Larnaca via the old road“, he adds.

Ban also states that during the reporting period, the situation in the buffer zone remained calm. “I am pleased to report that the overall number of military violations has further decreased. I hope that the opposing forces, which have demonstrated overall good cooperation with UNFICYP, will respond positively to the Mission’s on-going efforts to advance discussions on military confidence-building measures which would also contribute to the on-going peace process“, he notes.

He stresses that both communities have continued to rely on UNFICYP’s assistance in areas ranging from humanitarian, religious, social and economic matters to a variety of bi-communal issues affecting the everyday lives of Cypriots.

In his report, the UNSG says that since its inception in 2004 and thanks to predominantly EU funding, the demining operation in the buffer zone has cleared 73 mined areas, or almost eleven square kilometres of land, for productive use, and destroyed more than 27,000 mines.

He adds that in line with the Security Council’s requests, most recently in resolution 1930 (2010), the Secretariat will remain engaged in contingency planning in relation to the settlement.

The planning, he notes, will continue in a flexible manner and will be guided by developments in the negotiations and the views of the parties on the possible role of the United Nations in this respect.

“At the same time, mindful of the Security Council’s previous calls and my stated intention to keep all peacekeeping operations under review, I shall continually keep the operations of UNFICYP under close review, taking into account developments on the ground
and the views of the parties, and shall revert to the Council with recommendations, as appropriate, for further adjustments to the UNFICYP mandate, force levels and concept of operations as soon as warranted“, he stresses.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37% of its territory. Talks are underway with an aim to reunify the island.

Leave a Reply