November 25, 2017

Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations operation in Cyprus (S/1996/1016)

United Nations

S/1996/1016

  Security Council Distr.: General

10 December 1996

Original: English

 


REPORT OF THE SECRETARY-GENERAL ON THE UNITED NATIONS
OPERATION IN CYPRUS

(for the period from 11 June to 10 December 1996)

 

I. INTRODUCTION

1. The present report on the United Nations operation in Cyprus covers developments from 11 June 1996 to 10 December 1996 and brings up to date the record of activities of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) pursuant to Security Council resolution 186 (1964) of 4 March 1964 and subsequent Council resolutions, most recently resolution 1062 (1996) of 28 June 1996. A separate report will be issued on my mission of good offices.

II. ACTIVITIES OF THE FORCE

A. Maintenance of the ceasefire and the military status quo

2. The period under review has seen a level of violence and an increase in tension along the ceasefire lines unparalleled since 1974. Tension rose in early August 1996 in anticipation of a demonstration organized by the Cyprus Motorcycle Federation. First announced in January 1996, it was to take the form of a symbolic motorcycle ride, undertaken by Greek Cypriots and persons from other countries, originating in Berlin and ending in Kyrenia on 11 August. This meant that the demonstrators intended to cross the United Nations buffer zone as well as the Turkish forces ceasefire line, a course of action that was bound to cause the utmost provocation. During the period leading up to the demonstration, the media on both sides publicized a large number of increasingly acerbic statements by the demonstration’s organizers and by Greek Cypriot political leaders, as well as counter statements by the Turkish Cypriot side.

3. During this period, the United Nations was in frequent contact with the government authorities, including the Cyprus Police, urging them to prevent any violation of the ceasefire lines or of the United Nations buffer zone. On the eve of the demonstration, I appealed publicly to the Government of Cyprus to take effective measures in exercise of its responsibilities to prevent any unauthorized entry into the United Nations buffer zone.

4. On the morning of 11 August, however, the demonstrators proceeded from the stadium in Nicosia, where they had assembled, to points east of Nicosia. Cyprus police were on hand, but remained largely passive. In the meantime, a major counter-demonstration had begun in north Nicosia, including a significant number of members of the “Grey Wolves”, an ultra-nationalist Turkish organization, who had arrived from Turkey.

5. The Greek Cypriot demonstrators entered the United Nations buffer zone at several points, approached the ceasefire line of the Turkish forces, and clashed with Turkish troops and Turkish Cypriot police as well as with Turkish Cypriot counter-demonstrators. The most serious clash occurred near Dherinia, where a large group of Greek Cypriots were allowed to cross the National Guard ceasefire line. In the meantime, the Turkish forces allowed counter-demonstrators and Turkish Cypriot police to cross a restricted military area and to enter the United Nations buffer zone. They proceeded to beat the Greek Cypriots with batons and iron bars, killing one civilian.

6. On 14 August, following the funeral of the Greek Cypriot who had been beaten to death, some 200 Greek Cypriots entered the buffer zone at Dherinia and approached the Turkish forces’ ceasefire line. Most were stopped by UNFICYP and were about to be moved out of the buffer zone when one demonstrator broke free from the main group and ran towards a Turkish Cypriot checkpoint, closely pursued by UNFICYP soldiers. While attempting to climb a flagpole flying a Turkish flag just behind the Turkish forces’ ceasefire line, he was shot five times from the Turkish/Turkish Cypriot side. In addition, Turkish and/or Turkish Cypriot uniformed personnel proceeded to fire some 25 to 50 rounds indiscriminately into the crowd inside the buffer zone. As a result, two British UNFICYP soldiers and two Greek Cypriots were wounded.

7. During the clashes on 11 and 14 August, a total of 19 UNFICYP soldiers were injured.

8. Following these clashes, relations between the two sides became very tense. Gustave Feissel, my Deputy Special Representative in Cyprus, made strenuous efforts to contain the situation and to prevent further acts of violence. On 8 September, however, two Turkish Cypriot soldiers were shot by unknown persons in the area of Ayios Nikolaos, north of the link road in the Eastern British Sovereign Base Area (SBA), an area where the ceasefire line is patrolled by SBA police and UNFICYP but where there is no United Nations buffer zone. One of the soldiers was killed and the other seriously wounded. The Turkish Cypriot side has stated that this killing was carried out by Greek Cypriot or Greek military personnel, a charge denied by the Greek Cypriot side.

9. During the demonstrations in August, UNFICYP had operated at a heightened state of alert for a number of days. Following the shooting of the two Turkish Cypriot soldiers, UNFICYP operated on an increased level of alert for 29 days, with over 80 per cent of the Force deployed in the buffer zone on a continuous basis. UNFICYP also maintained an increased presence in the mixed village of Pyla during this period.

10. The violent incidents of August and September also had the effect of setting the opposing forces on the island on edge. On a number of occasions, both forces moved forward of their lines into the United Nations buffer zone, and in some cases attempted to restrict UNFICYP operations. This was an almost daily occurrence in areas where the delineation of the ceasefire line is disputed by the Turkish forces. Instances of the firing of weapons have increased, although in most cases these consisted of negligent discharges that can be explained by a lack of discipline and training. In a serious incident on 13 October, however, a Greek Cypriot was shot three times and killed by a Turkish Cypriot soldier after crossing the Turkish forces’ ceasefire line. On 29 October, a British military patrol was fired at from a Turkish sentry post when it inadvertently crossed the Turkish forces’ ceasefire line. Along the whole buffer zone, but particularly in those areas where the opposing forces are in close proximity to each other, there has been a rise in instances of weapons being pointed or cocked, stone throwing and verbal abuse.

11. In all these cases, UNFICYP intervened with the military authorities on both sides to correct violations and to prevent any escalation.

12. There was also an increase in the number of incidents in which UNFICYP soldiers were threatened at gunpoint by soldiers of either side, and on four occasions UNFICYP personnel came under fire. On 13 September, a Turkish soldier fired several rounds at a United Nations helicopter flying inside the buffer zone west of Astromeritis. On 20 September, a Turkish soldier fired two rounds at a United Nations patrol east of Nicosia. On 26 September, several bursts of automatic fire, totalling some 30 rounds, were fired from the National Guard ceasefire line in the area of a United Nations observation post south-east of Nicosia. (The National Guard denied any involvement in the incident.) Finally, on 16 November near Ayios Ioannis, a Greek Cypriot hunter fired his shotgun directly at UNFICYP soldiers inside the buffer zone. A suspect was apprehended by the Cyprus police and an investigation is under way.

13. As in the past, there were a number of air violations of the status quo, mainly in connection with the annual exercises of the National Guard (4-7 October) and of the Turkish forces (4-7 November). Greek military aircraft took part in the National Guard exercise, which included the dropping of live ordnance, the dropping of parachutists and landings at Paphos airport. Similarly, Turkish military aircraft took part in the Turkish forces’ exercise, and landed at Lefkoniko airport. In addition, six F-5 aircraft of a Turkish Air Force aerobatics detachment flew low over a parade in north Nicosia, and briefly over the buffer zone, on 15 November.

14. UNFICYP continued to monitor the status quo in the fenced area of Varosha. There were some cases of looting, which were protested by UNFICYP to the Turkish forces, who were reminded once again that the United Nations holds the Government of Turkey responsible for the maintenance of the status quo in the fenced area of Varosha. In addition, buildings continued to be used to house students.

B. Implementation of paragraphs 4 to 9 of resolution 1062 (1996)

15. With regard to the level of military forces and armaments on the island, there was no significant change on the Turkish side, which maintained a strength of some 30,000 Turkish and 4,500 Turkish Cypriot troops. On the government side, the National Guard acquired 27 modern T-80UM and 52 AMX-30 main battle tanks, for a total of 123 main battle tanks; the Guard’s strength stands at approximately 11,500 troops.

16. As the events reported in the previous section indicate, there was no progress on the question of reciprocal measures to prohibit live ammunition or weapons, other than hand-held weapons, along the ceasefire lines. Nor was there any progress on the question of an extension of the 1989 unmanning agreement. In October, UNFICYP presented to the military authorities on both sides specific proposals for (a) the extension of unmanning to the areas where the military on the two sides remain in close proximity to each other; (b) the prohibition of loaded weapons along the ceasefire lines; and (c) the adoption of a code of conduct, based on the concept of minimum force and proportionate response, to be followed by troops on both sides along the ceasefire lines. The proposed measures are mutually reinforcing and should be treated as a package. They are modest and would not affect the security of the forces or the population on either side. Both sides have agreed to consider the UNFICYP proposals without preconditions and as an integrated whole and discussions are currently under way.

17. The National Guard has continued its military construction programme and, in particular, is currently undertaking construction works in and around the Nicosia Central Prison, close to a sensitive area of the buffer zone. Based on observation from the air, the construction would appear to be intended as a military position. In accordance with established practice, UNFICYP has repeatedly protested the construction and requested access to the site for inspection, but so far access has been denied. For their part, the Turkish Forces have reacted by carrying out construction in the same area. This has also been protested by UNFICYP.

18. There are 39 minefields and booby-trapped areas within the buffer zone, and a further 71 are located on either side within 500 metres of it. UNFICYP has requested their removal by the forces of the two sides, so far with little effect.

C. Restoration of normal conditions and humanitarian functions

19. UNFICYP has continued its efforts to promote and facilitate bicommunal events with a view to increasing communication and cooperation between the two communities. These occasions were organized by the United Nations, embassies of several interested Governments and non-governmental organizations. One notable event was an open house organized by UNFICYP on 24 October 1996, when over 3,000 Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots joined United Nations personnel at the Ledra Palace Hotel in the buffer zone in Nicosia to celebrate United Nations Day.

20. The Turkish Cypriot authorities continued to insist on deciding on the participation of Turkish Cypriots in such events on a case-by-case basis. Authorization was often denied at little or no notice and with no reason provided. Since the latter part of October, a number of Greek Cypriots have been demonstrating at the South Ledra checkpoint in Nicosia with the stated purpose of dissuading foreign tourists from crossing to the northern part of the island. At times, they have also impeded the freedom of movement of United Nations and diplomatic personnel. These demonstrations have contributed to a climate of tension and ill-will between the two sides. UNFICYP has urged the Government to take the necessary measures to ensure that movement through the South Ledra checkpoint is not impeded or deterred. For its part, the Turkish Cypriot side responded by preventing bicommunal events, with very few exceptions.

21. UNFICYP continued to implement its humanitarian mandate in respect of Greek Cypriots and Maronites living in the northern part of the island and Turkish Cypriots living in the southern part. There are now 486 Greek Cypriots living in the Karpas area and 187 Maronites in the Kormakiti region. Of the Turkish Cypriots living in the southern part of the island, 343 are known to UNFICYP. The living conditions of the Greek Cypriots and the Maronites in the northern part of Cyprus have not changed (see S/1996/411, paras. 22-25) and there has been no further progress on the implementation of the recommendations arising out of the humanitarian review undertaken by UNFICYP in 1995 (see S/1995/1020, paras. 20-25, and annexes).

22. Following the incidents that took place in August and September 1996, UNFICYP was contacted by a number of Turkish Cypriots living in the southern part of the island who expressed concern for their safety. As a result, United Nations civilian police increased their visits to Turkish Cypriots. At the beginning of December, UNFICYP opened a liaison office at Limassol to facilitate access to the Force by Turkish Cypriots living in the southern part of the island.

23. The Turkish Cypriots living or working in the southern part of the island and in the buffer zone have been affected adversely by the aftermath of the incidents of recent months. Most, including the Turkish Cypriot residents of Pyla, have been suspended temporarily from their employment. UNFICYP has urged the Government to take the necessary steps to ensure that these persons can return to their places of work without delay. As a result of UNFICYP intervention, the people affected are receiving unemployment entitlements.

III. ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL ACTIVITIES OF THE UNITED NATIONS SYSTEM

24. UNFICYP continues to act as intermediary between the two communities and to facilitate cooperation in such areas as the repair and equitable distribution of electricity and water resources.

25. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), as well as United Nations specialized agencies, continued their efforts to pursue bicommunal activities, mainly in the sectors of health and environment.

26. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) continued to administer a bicommunal humanitarian programme, planned and implemented by bicommunal teams of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, which includes significant development components. The main areas of cooperation were in sanitation, health, environment, agriculture, veterinary science, rehabilitation of culturally important sites and the Nicosia Master Plan. During the period under review, regular bicommunal meetings in these areas of cooperation were held at the UNHCR offices.

IV. COMMITTEE ON MISSING PERSONS

27. In my last report to the Security Council (S/1996/411, para. 31), I mentioned my letter to the leaders of the two communities of 4 April 1996, asking both sides to agree on four specific points as an indication of their determination that the Committee on Missing Persons should make expeditious progress before initiating the procedure to appoint a new Third Member. Despite the substantial work carried out by both sides, no agreement has been reached on the four points. I am currently considering the merits of continuing United Nations support to the Committee.

V. ORGANIZATIONAL MATTERS

28. As of December 1996, UNFICYP comprised 1,162 troops and 35 civilian police. The military personnel were from Argentina (390), Austria (314), Canada (2), Finland (2), Hungary (39), Ireland (32) and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (383). The police were from Australia (20) and Ireland (15). In addition, it had a civilian complement of 339, of whom 40 were recruited internationally, and 299 locally. The deployment of the Force is shown on the map attached to the present report.

29. Mr. Han Sung-Joo continues to serve as my Special Representative for Cyprus, Mr. Gustave Feissel as my Deputy Special Representative and Chief of Mission of the United Nations operation in Cyprus, and Brigadier General Ahti T. P. Vartiainen as Force Commander.

Financial aspects

30. The General Assembly, by its resolution 50/236 of 7 June 1996, appropriated an amount of $45,079,500 gross for maintaining UNFICYP for the 12-month period from 1 July 1996 to 30 June 1997. This amount includes the pledged voluntary contribution from the Government of Cyprus of one third of the cost of the Force, and the annual amount of $6.5 million contributed by the Government of Greece.

31. Should the Security Council decide to extend the mandate of UNFICYP for a further period of six months as I recommend in paragraph 38 below, the costs of maintaining the Force would be approximately $22.5 million. Of that amount, approximately $12.1 million would be assessed on Member States.

32. As at 30 November 1996, the total outstanding assessed contributions to the UNFICYP Special Account amounted to $13.6 million, representing some 18.6 per cent of the assessment for the Mission since 16 June 1993. The outstanding assessed contributions for all peacekeeping operations totalled $1.7 billion.

VI. OBSERVATIONS

33. The situation in Cyprus deteriorated in the last six months. There was violence along the ceasefire lines, including the unnecessary and disproportionate use of lethal force by the Turkish/Turkish Cypriot side, to an extent not seen since 1974. The atmosphere between the two communities was marked by increasing distrust and hostility.

34. Once again, I must express serious concern about the excessive levels of military forces and armaments in Cyprus and the rate at which they are being expanded, upgraded and modernized. This can only increase tension on the island and in the region.

35. During the demonstrations on 11 and 14 August, UNFICYP did its best to prevent the demonstrators from entering the United Nations buffer zone. An international peacekeeping force is placed in an invidious position, however, when faced with a volatile crowd of civilians. Controlling the civilian population must therefore remain the exclusive responsibility of the local authorities. In Cyprus, the authorities on both sides have proved on many occasions that they are perfectly capable of fulfilling this task. The police are effective, and the political leaders have both the formal and informal means to provide guidance on important security issues and to ensure that it is heeded.

36. There is an urgent need now for leaders on both sides to make a serious effort to reverse the negative trend of recent months and to lead their communities in a more positive direction. In word and deed, efforts must be made to build trust and goodwill between the two sides.

37. UNFICYP has proposed a number of practical measures that would go a long way towards achieving this aim. Early agreement on the proposed package of measures to reduce tension along the ceasefire lines would be a significant step forward. Implementation of the measures to improve the living conditions of the Greek Cypriots and Maronites living in the northern part of the island should be realized without further delay. The removal of all impediments to the movement of people and increased contacts and communication between the two sides would be another important step towards bringing the two communities closer together, particularly in the prevailing climate; this applies both to official restrictions as well as to unofficial efforts to dissuade people from visiting the other side.

38. In the prevailing circumstances, I believe that the UNFICYP presence on the island remains indispensable if we are to achieve the objectives set out by the Security Council. I therefore recommend that the Council extend the mandate of the Force for a further period of six months until 30 June 1997. In accordance with established practice, I am consulting the parties concerned on the matter and shall report to the Council as soon as these consultations have been completed.

39. I take this opportunity to express my appreciation to the Governments contributing troops and civilian police to UNFICYP for the steadfast support they have given to this United Nations peacekeeping operation. I also wish to thank the Governments that have made voluntary contributions towards the financing of the Force.

40. In conclusion, I wish to express my appreciation to my Special Representative, to my Deputy Special Representative and Chief of Mission, to the Force Commander and to the men and women serving with UNFICYP, who have discharged the important responsibilities entrusted to them by the Security Council with efficiency and dedication.