November 23, 2017

Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations operation in Cyprus (S/1997/962)

United Nations

S/1997/962

  Security Council Distr.: General

8 December 1997

Original: English

 


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

I. INTRODUCTION

1. The present report on the United Nations operation in Cyprus covers developments since 6 June 1997 and brings up to date the record of the 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 1117 (1997) of 27 June 1997, in which the Council decided to extend the mandate of UNFICYP for a further period ending on 31 December 1997. I will report to the Council separately on my mission of good offices.

II. ACTIVITIES OF THE FORCE

A. Maintenance of the ceasefire and the military status quo

2. During the period under review, the level of tension along the ceasefire lines remained higher than the norm, but lower than during the same period in 1996. Although both sides generally respected the ceasefire and the military status quo, there were nonetheless frequent incidents and an increased number of restrictions of UNFICYP movement. Moreover, throughout the reporting period, both sides were not forthcoming when UNFICYP protested these violations of the military status quo.

3. Both sides continued to dispute the delineation of their respective ceasefire lines as well as the authority of UNFICYP in a number of areas of the United Nations buffer zone. Moreover, in most instances of protests by UNFICYP to moves forward, the violating side challenged the delineation of the buffer zone in the area concerned. The National Guard violated the agreed arrangements for the civilian-use areas of Athienou and that part of the Nicosia-Larnaca highway that runs through the buffer zone. The Turkish forces violated the agreed military status quo arrangements in two locations in Sector 4, denied access through the Lefka checkpoint for all UNFICYP personnel, and challenged the right of UNFICYP to move freely through some parts of the buffer zone. This resulted in a number of incidents of restriction of movement, including some occasions when physical force was used against UNFICYP foot patrols.

4. During the reporting period, there was a slight rise in the number of serious shooting incidents in or near the buffer zone. On 1 July, the Turkish forces fired at an alleged intruder in the buffer zone over the heads of an UNFICYP patrol investigating a previous incident; on 11 July, unknown persons fired a number of rounds at the Turkish forces position in the area west of Athienou; on 14 July, in the same area, Turkish forces fired shots into the buffer zone in the direction of alleged intruders in the buffer zone; on 25 July, a Turkish forces sentry fired at an alleged intruder in the buffer zone on the outskirts of Nicosia. On 22 September, a National Guard sentry west of Nicosia fired at an alleged intruder in the buffer zone. The most serious incident occurred on 8 October 1997 when Turkish forces fired seven rifle shots towards a Greek Cypriot farmer who, despite UNFICYP warnings, had driven his tractor beyond the farming security line. All these shooting incidents were protested by UNFICYP. However, in several cases, despite evidence, both sides simply denied that any incident had taken place. These incidents underline the need for agreement on UNFICYP proposals to reduce tension along the ceasefire lines as called for in Security Council resolution 1117 (1997) and previous resolutions.

5. Both sides undertook major military construction works extending eastward from Nicosia, including anti-tank ditches and other defensive fortifications. In the Pedieos River area, to the west of the Old City of Nicosia, both sides carried out “tit for tat” construction by building a network of bunkers with connecting trenches. This military construction continued despite strong protests by UNFICYP.

6. On 26 September 1997, the leaders of the two communities met jointly with Mr. Gustave Feissel, my Deputy Special Representative and Chief of Mission in Cyprus, at the latter’s residence in the buffer zone, to explore the possibility of agreeing on matters related to security. Mr. Feissel underlined that while a comprehensive settlement of the security issues would be part of an overall agreement, some modest first steps would be most helpful, not least at a time when acrimonious exchanges both on the island and between Greece and Turkey were undermining the overall atmosphere. Mr. Feissel recalled that the leaders of the two communities had on various separate occasions expressed the same position on a number of important matters related to security. These are that an overall settlement must take into account the security concerns of both communities; that they both reject the use of force or the threat of force and that they both commit their respective communities to solving the Cyprus problem by peaceful means only; that Greece and Turkey should undertake a similar commitment; and that they remain committed to demilitarization as an overall objective. In addition, it was suggested that the two leaders should take this opportunity to endorse the UNFICYP package of proposals for unmanning, the prohibition of loaded weapons along the ceasefire lines and the code of conduct. The two leaders agreed that Mr. Feissel would follow the meeting with separate discussions with each of them in the hope of preparing the ground for an agreed joint statement. Mr. Feissel is pursuing this with the two leaders.

7. Turkish aircraft violated Cypriot air space during the National Guard annual military exercises from 11 to 16 October 1997. On 15 October, Greek military aircraft violated the spirit of the ceasefire by flying within 1,000 metres of the buffer zone. On 16 October, I issued a statement in which, inter alia, I recalled the relevant Security Council resolutions, that called upon all concerned to commit themselves to a reduction in defense spending and a reduction in the number of foreign troops on the island and call upon the parties to create a climate for reconciliation and genuine mutual confidence on both sides, and to avoid any actions which might increase tension. However, on 3 November, Turkish forces helicopters violated the buffer zone during the Turkish forces annual military exercise in Cyprus and on 5 November four Turkish Air Force F-4 fighter planes flew straight across the buffer zone at an altitude of 200 metres and entered some 300 metres into the government-controlled area before returning to the northern part of the island. All these incidents were protested by UNFICYP.

8. Both sides continued to upgrade their military and mechanized forces. It is estimated that there are over 30,000 Turkish forces and some 4,500 Turkish Cypriot troops on the island. Their equipment was modernized with the further replacement of M48A5T1 tanks by M48A5T2 tanks. In addition, the Turkish forces introduced 12 large-calibre, self-propelled M-110 artillery pieces on the island.

9. The National Guard’s strength is approximately 14,500. The plan announced by the Government of the Republic of Cyprus to purchase the S-300 air defence system (see S/1997/437, para. 9), continued to draw a strong reaction from Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot side. On several occasions, UNFICYP drew the attention of both sides to resolution 1117 (1997), in which the Security Council reiterated grave concern at the continuing levels of military forces and armaments in the Republic of Cyprus and the rate at which they were being expanded, upgraded and modernized. No progress was made towards the implementation of that provision of the resolution.

10. UNFICYP continued its efforts to have the package of proposals for the reduction of tension along the ceasefire lines accepted in accordance with Security Council resolution 1117 (1997) and previous resolutions. In late June 1997, to facilitate an agreement, UNFICYP presented a revised package of unmanning proposals to both sides that took into account the preoccupations that had been expressed by each side. The revised proposals focused upon Nicosia and Dherenia as the areas of close proximity most prone to generate tension. Those proposals, based on detailed on-site reviews with both sides, included a new approach of “lateral unmanning”. The lateral unmanning approach would achieve the objective of increasing the distance between positions of the opposing forces by the unmanning of guard posts alternating diagonally between the two ceasefire lines. The proposal for the prohibition of loaded weapons along the ceasefire lines and the proposed code of conduct were amalgamated since both proposals aim at raising the threshold before firearms are used. Despite a further 21 meetings with the military authorities on both sides, no agreement has yet been reached. UNFICYP informed both sides that I would advise the Security Council of the respective positions adopted by each side up to this time.

11. The latest position of each side is as follows:

(a) The National Guard has taken the position that the reduction of tension along the ceasefire lines would best be achieved by the implementation of the prohibition of loaded weapons and the code of conduct. The National Guard does not wish to unman in areas such as Nicosia where, in their view, the security of Greek Cypriot civilians might be affected;

(b) On 23 October 1997 the Turkish forces declared their willingness to accept the UNFICYP revised package presented to both sides in June 1997, provided that the National Guard did likewise.

UNFICYP will continue its efforts to reach an agreement on the proposed package of proposals.

12. UNFICYP continued to carry out regular inspections of the underground facilities and park at Roccas Bastion in Nicosia. The situation has remained unchanged and there was no indication that the area was being used for military purposes.

13. UNFICYP continued to monitor the status quo in the fenced area of Varosha. There were numerous observed instances of property being removed from buildings by Turkish forces’ personnel. UNFICYP protested these violations to the Turkish forces. The United Nations holds the Government of Turkey responsible for the maintenance of the status quo in the fenced area of Varosha.

14. UNFICYP movement in the northern part of the island continued to be restricted. On several occasions, humanitarian patrols were obstructed and vehicles searched. On one occasion the UNFICYP humanitarian officer in Sector 1 was arrested and held for several hours.

15. There are 38 minefields and booby-trapped areas inside the buffer zone and a further 73 located within 500 metres of it. It is estimated that they contain more than 16,000 mines. In accordance with Security Council resolution 1092 (1996) of 23 December 1996, UNFICYP again requested both sides to assist in confirming the scale of the problem before presenting proposals for the removal of the minefields located within the buffer zone. Neither side has responded to the UNFICYP request. On 21 September 1997, a Greek Cypriot was killed by a mine in a National Guard minefield outside the buffer zone southeast of Nicosia.

16. In July, August and November when the traditional rallies and demonstrations were held in the southern part of the island, the authorities acted in a determined and professional manner. As a result, the events took place with only minor incidents.

17. Greek Cypriot hunters frequently entered the buffer zone illegally during the hunting season. On one occasion, a shotgun was discharged in the direction of UNFICYP personnel; on two other occasions, UNFICYP personnel were assaulted by Greek Cypriot civilians inside the buffer zone. These incidents were protested to the appropriate authorities.

B. Restoration of normal conditions and humanitarian functions

18. UNFICYP continued its efforts to encourage contact and cooperation between the two communities and to building mutual trust through actively promoting bicommunal events and activities. During the period under review, UNFICYP organized in cooperation with various diplomatic missions a bicommunal fair on 27 September attended by some 3,900 Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. To celebrate United Nations Day UNFICYP organized an open house, which was attended by over 4,000 persons from both communities. Other activities organized by UNFICYP included a bicommunal darts tournament held in Bellapais in the northern part of Cyprus and a bicommunal go-kart event in the United Nations protected area. A large number of bicommunal meetings were also held in the Ledra Palace Hotel, located in the buffer zone in Nicosia, under the auspices of UNFICYP and diplomatic missions or on the initiative of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot non-governmental and professional organizations representing a wide spectrum of disciplines and interests. The popularity of these activities continues to demonstrate the desire among the two communities to renew contacts in an unhindered manner. The media coverage of these events also generated a positive public discussion on the desirability and usefulness of bicommunal contacts.

19. Demonstrations by Greek Cypriots continued to be staged at the South Ledra checkpoint, mainly on weekends, with the aim of dissuading tourists from crossing to the north. In many instances, organized groups of schoolchildren in uniform participated in demonstrations. The demonstrations inconvenienced visitors and hindered the movement of UNFICYP and diplomatic personnel.

20. The Government of Cyprus protested that churches and other religious property in the northern part of Cyprus had been allowed to decay and that some had been vandalized and property had been removed. There is also concern about damage to graveyards. UNFICYP pursued the matter with the Turkish Cypriot authorities.

21. On 28 and 31 July, the leaders of the two communities met jointly with my Deputy Special Representative to discuss a number of humanitarian issues of common concern. On 31 July, the two leaders agreed, as a first step in resolving the problem of the missing persons, to provide each other all information already at their disposal on the location of graves of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot missing persons. They also each agreed to designate a person who would meet to exchange this information and to prepare the necessary arrangements leading to the return of the remains of these Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot missing persons. On 30 September, the leader of the Greek Cypriot community informed Mr. Feissel that his side had completed its work and was ready to proceed as agreed on 31 July. The Turkish Cypriot side indicated that it would be ready by the end of November. At their 31 July meeting, the two leaders also reached agreement on a number of other humanitarian issues, which have since been implemented (see paras. 22 and 23 below).

22. UNFICYP continued to carry out humanitarian tasks in respect of Greek Cypriots and Maronites in the northern part of the island, and Turkish Cypriots in the southern part. There are now 477 Greek Cypriots in the Karpas area and 177 Maronites residing in the Kormakiti area. There are some 340 Turkish Cypriots in the southern part of the island who have made themselves known to UNFICYP. The living conditions of Greek Cypriots and Maronites residing in the northern part of the island have changed little from those reported previously (see S/1996/411, paras. 22-25, and S/1996/1016, paras. 21 and 22). With regard to the recommendations arising from the humanitarian review UNFICYP undertook in 1995 (S/1995/1020, paras. 20-25 and annexes), the Turkish Cypriot authorities have made some improvements, notably by increasing the number of telephone lines in the Karpas and Kormakiti areas and by allowing UNFICYP humanitarian patrols to meet privately with Greek Cypriots in the Karpas area without the presence of police. Furthermore, the two vacant Greek Cypriot schoolteacher positions have now been filled in Rizokarpaso. Thus far, the Turkish Cypriots living in the south have made little use of the UNFICYP Liaison Office opened in December 1996 in Limassol.

23. The United Nations provides the only telephone line between the northern and southern parts of the island. The existing system has become overburdened and is unable to cope with the increasing demand. Therefore, it was decided to upgrade the current 3 line operator-assisted telephone connections to 20 automated telephone and facsimile connections. This upgrade is expected to increase the annual handling capacity from 107,000 to some 750,000 calls per year, while avoiding the existing logjam. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has agreed to cover the costs of the expanded telephone line.

24. On 8 August 1997, 386 Turkish Cypriots were able to travel by road through the government-controlled area to Kokkina to attend commemoration ceremonies. Some 274 Turkish Cypriots undertook a similar trip on 8 November 1997. On 15 August 1997, 674 Greek Cypriots were able to go on a pilgrimage to the monastery of Apostolos Andreas in the Karpas Peninsula. Another pilgrimage to Apostolos Andreas took place on 30 November 1997 in which some 1,200 Greek Cypriots participated.

III. ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL ACTIVITIES OF THE

UNITED NATIONS SYSTEM

25. UNFICYP continued to act as the intermediary between the two communities to facilitate cooperation in such areas as the equitable distribution of water and electricity. Such cooperation on matters related to water resources on the island has become more important recently owing to poor rainfall, which has led to diminishing water supplies on the island.

26. During the period under review, work commenced on the Pyla Physical Development Plan financed by UNHCR to renovate and upgrade the centre of Pyla village. The first phase of the project, the renovation of the Turkish Cypriot coffee shop and the Greek Orthodox church, was completed in October 1997 using workers from both communities, in particular Turkish Cypriots who became unemployed following the events of August 1996.

27. As mentioned in my previous report (S/1997/437, para. 23), at the end of 1997 UNHCR will conclude its administration of a bicommunal programme funded by a voluntary contribution from a Member State.

28. The main areas of cooperation under this programme during the period under review were in agriculture, water resources, veterinary science, environment, sanitation, laboratory sciences, rehabilitation of culturally important sites and the Nicosia Master Plan. Regular bicommunal meetings on these matters were held at the UNHCR office.

IV. COMMITTEE ON MISSING PERSONS

29. The overall situation relating to the Committee on Missing Persons has remained as indicated in my previous report (S/1997/437, paras. 24 and 25). At the same time, the 31 July agreement with regard to the exchange of information on the location of graves of missing persons and the return of their remains (see para. 21 above) represents a significant breakthrough, which, if faithfully implemented, should have a positive effect on the remaining work with regard to missing persons.

30. In this connection, I am encouraged to note that on 31 July, the leaders of the two communities agreed to the following text:

“The leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities consider the problem of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot missing persons in Cyprus as a purely humanitarian issue the solution of which is long overdue.

“The two leaders agree that no political exploitation should be made by either side of the problem of the missing persons and they pledge to work for its solution in order to terminate the agony and the uncertainty of the families of the missing persons, both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot.

“The two leaders respect the rights of the families of the missing to be informed of the fate of their loved ones in a convincing and conclusive manner to the best extent possible.

“The two leaders recognize the right of those families whose missing loved ones are proved to be dead to have, to the best extent possible, their remains for proper burial in accordance with their religious traditions and practices.”

31. In their 31 July agreement, the two leaders also requested that I appoint a new third member of the Committee on Missing Persons in order to expedite the conclusion of the Committee’s work. As soon as the implementation of the 31 July agreement is effectively launched, I will proceed with the appointment of a new third member of the Committee.

V. ORGANIZATIONAL MATTERS

32. As of December 1997, UNFICYP comprised 1,230 troops and 35 civilian police. This represents an increase of 57 troops since the last report following the expansion of the Force to its full authorized strength in response to the experiences of 1996. The military personnel are from Argentina (416), Austria (257), Canada (2), Finland (1), Hungary (105), Ireland (30), Slovenia (10), and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (409). Slovenia became a new troop contributor during the period under review. The civilian police are provided by Australia (20) and Ireland (15). In addition, UNFICYP currently has a civilian component of 44 international and 291 locally recruited staff.

33. Mr. Diego Cordovez remained my Special Adviser on Cyprus. Mr. Gustave Feissel continued as my Deputy Special Representative and Chief of Mission of the United Nations operation in Cyprus. Major-General Evergisto A. De Vergara continued as Force Commander.

Financial aspects

34. In its resolution 51/235 of 13 June 1997, the General Assembly appropriated an amount of $48,000,800 gross for maintaining UNFICYP for the 12-month period from 1 July 1997 to 30 June 1998. 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.

35. Should the Security Council decide to extend the mandate of UNFICYP for a further period of six months as recommended in paragraph 41 below, the costs of maintaining the Force would be approximately $24 million. Of that amount, approximately $14.5 million would be assessed on Member States.

36. As at 31 October 1997, the total outstanding assessed contributions to the UNFICYP Special Account amounted to $15.4 million, which represents some 14.8 per cent of the assessment for the Mission since 16 June 1993. The outstanding assessed contributions for all peacekeeping operations amounted to $1.6 billion.

VI. OBSERVATIONS

37. During the period under review, the situation in Cyprus was calmer than in the preceding six months, but the overall situation continued to be marked by tension. The continued lack of progress towards an overall settlement, coupled with increasingly belligerent rhetoric, contributed to a growing sense of frustration in both communities. I have appealed to both sides, as well as to Greece and Turkey, to refrain from any action that could raise tension and negatively affect efforts to achieve a peaceful settlement. I have also urged that the military authorities on both sides be more responsive to UNFICYP observations and protests concerning their responsibilities along the ceasefire lines.

38. The repeated appeals of the Security Council for a reduction in defence spending and a reduction in the number of foreign military troops have not been heeded by either side. The military forces and armaments in Cyprus continued to be expanded, upgraded and modernized at an increasing rate.

39. It is disappointing that after more than one year of intensive discussions, the package of reciprocal measures proposed by UNFICYP to reduce tension along the ceasefire lines has still not been put in place, despite the Security Council’s repeated calls that the two sides should accept it without delay or preconditions. The simple practical measures proposed by UNFICYP, which take into account the concerns of both sides, would significantly improve the atmosphere and reduce the potential for violations of the ceasefire. Now that the UNFICYP proposal has been accepted by one side I hope that the other will follow suit without further delay.

40. There have also been some positive developments. The meetings of the two leaders of the two communities with my Deputy Special Representative at the end of July resulted in progress on the question of missing persons and in some improvements on humanitarian issues. I have also asked my Deputy Special Representative to pursue vigorously the proposal of a joint statement on security, which he discussed with the two leaders during a further meeting at the end of September. Such a joint statement would be an important, positive signal and could significantly improve the atmosphere between the two sides. The participation of thousands of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots in bicommunal activities sponsored by UNFICYP and others demonstrate that there exists between the two communities a basis of mutual respect and goodwill which can and should be expanded. I have accordingly instructed UNFICYP to give high priority to this part of its work and I call upon the authorities on both sides to facilitate the expansion of such activities in an unhindered manner.

41. The presence of UNFICYP on the island remains indispensable in order to maintain the ceasefire between the two sides, which is a prerequisite for achieving the settlement of the Cyprus question sought by the international community. Therefore, I recommend that the Security Council extend the mandate of the Force for a further period of six months until 30 June 1998. 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.

42. With regard to my mission of good offices, I shall inform the Security Council separately on the direct talks and other developments concerning the effort to establish a sustained process of negotiations.

43. 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 peacekeeping operation of the United Nations. I also wish to thank the Governments that have made voluntary contributions towards the financing of the Force.

44. In conclusion, I wish to express my warm appreciation to my Special Adviser for Cyprus, Mr. Diego Cordovez, and to my Deputy Special Representative and Chief of Mission in Cyprus, Mr. Gustave Feissel. I also wish to pay tribute to Major-General Evergisto A. De Vergara, the Force Commander, and to the men and women serving with UNFICYP for the efficiency and dedication with which they have discharged the responsibilities entrusted to them by the Security Council.