UNFICYP’s presence remains indispensable, Defence Minister says, thanks Austrian counterpart for their contribution
CNA – CYPRUS/Larnaca 15/02/2022 16:17
The UNFICYP’s presence on the island remains indispensable as long as the illegal Turkish military occupation continues, Cyprus’ Minister of Defence, Charalambos Petrides said on Tuesday during a visit with his Austrian counterpart, Klaudia Tanner, at the memorial honouring three fallen Austrian peacekeepers in Koshi village, in the Larnaca district.

The three Austrian UNFICYP peacekeepers, First Lieutenant Johann Izay, Master Sergeant Paul Decombe and Corporal August Isak, were killed in the area during an attack by Turkish airplanes in August 1974.

During a ceremony at the memorial site, where the two Ministers laid wreaths and observed a moment of silence, Petrides expressed to his Austrian counterpart the appreciation and gratitude of the government and people of the Republic of Cyprus for the participation of her country in the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus.

“We also honour and pay tribute to the UN personnel worldwide who lost their lives serving human values, promoting peace and prosperity,” he said.

The Minister said that after the Turkish invasion in 1974, the Security Council adopted a number of resolutions expanding UNFICYPs mandate, including the supervising of the de facto ceasefire that came into effect in 1974. During these tragic events, he added, on the 14th of August 1974 three Austrian Blue Beret servicemen “unfortunately lost their lives in this very same place, after an attack by Turkish fighter planes.”

“We pledge that we will never forget their sacrifice. May their memory be eternal,” he said.

Petrides also referred to the adoption last January by the Security Council of Resolution 2618, renewing the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus for another six months, as a result, he said, “of the illegal Turkish invasion and continued occupation and due to Turkey’s denial to enter meaningful negotiations for a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus problem.”

“With our mind to the young generation, we envision a free and united Cyprus, a common homeland for all its lawful citizens irrespective of their ethnic background,” he said.

To this end, he added, the UNIFICYP has been absolutely instrumental in the task of peacekeeping on the island. “The benefits of its work cannot be overemphasised and its presence remains indispensable as long as the illegal military occupation of our island continues,” he said.

Tanner, referring to the events of August 14 1974, said that the three men were among a group of four Austrian UN peacekeepers that had tried to prevent an attack on Koshi but were forced to withdraw and continued to observe the situation, as their mandate required. Hours later, she said, “an attack by the National Guard on the village of Koshi was followed by an overflight by a Turkish strike aircraft that dropped its bombs on the vehicle used by the UN soldiers and on the soldiers themselves, causing the deaths of three of them”, whom she called “heroes” who laid down their lives in the service of peace.

She added that the Republic of Austria’s goal has always been and will always be to bring peace to countries riven by conflict and that Austrian soldiers, with will, bravery and professionalism ensure they will always do their duty in the service of peace.

The Austrian Minister said that in the past 62 years, more than 100,000 soldiers and civilian helpers made an indispensable contribution to world peace by serving in more than 100 international peace-support and humanitarian missions.

She also said the security situation in Europe has become worse and that is why “deployments by Austrian Armed Forces personnel in EU and UN missions are indispensable.”

“Missions like these prove how important it is for Austria to help and to ensure stability in the event of crises,” she added. Tanner thanked all Austrian soldiers and civilian helpers who actively contribute to world peace in very challenging situations, often by risking their lives.

“They uphold Austria’s reputation as a reliable peacekeeper in countries riven by disasters, wars or devastation,” she said, adding that these people were heroes.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. Repeated rounds of UN-led peace talks have so far failed to yield results.

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