November 25, 2017

S/1998/488 – Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations operation in Cyprus

United Nations

S/1998/488

  Security Council Distr.: General

10 June 1998

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 from 8 December 1997 to 8 June 1998 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 1146 (1997) of 23 December 1997, in which the Council decided to extend the mandate of UNFICYP for a further period ending on 30 June 1998. 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 situation along the ceasefire lines remained calm. Although both sides generally respected the ceasefire and the military status quo, there were frequent minor incidents. Both sides continued to dispute the delineation of their respective ceasefire lines in a number of areas within the United Nations buffer zone, often challenging the authority of UNFICYP. At times, this created friction between UNFICYP and the opposing forces as they moved forward into the buffer zone or overmanned their ceasefire lines in the disputed areas. As in the previous reporting period, both sides ignored UNFICYP protests of the more serious violations of the military status quo by continuing military construction along and in close proximity to the ceasefire lines.

3. There were a number of shooting incidents, which in most cases were heard, but not observed, by UNFICYP. Following investigations, both sides usually denied any knowledge of the incidents. On 13 March and 5 April 1998, each side accused the other of firing. At the request of the side claiming to have received the initial fire, investigations were carried out and rifle rounds recovered. Nevertheless, UNFICYP was unable to obtain sufficient evidence to determine who had fired owing, inter alia, to the unwillingness of both sides to give timely access to the sector of the ceasefire line from which the shots were said to have originated or to answer questions. All shooting incidents were protested by UNFICYP.

4. Both sides continued major military construction works. These include anti-tank ditches and other defensive fortifications east and south-east of Nicosia, and a network of bunkers with connecting trenches to the west of the Old City of Nicosia. Such military construction tends to increase tension along the ceasefire lines. However, despite strong protests by UNFICYP, it continued.

5. There were a number of overflights as follows during the period under review. On 12 January 1998, a Turkish F-4 Phantom fighter aircraft overflew the buffer zone near Pyla. UNFICYP strongly protested this incident to Turkish forces headquarters. On 30 April, UNFICYP observed two Turkish Air Force RF-4 Phantoms conducting a live firing ground attack exercise onto a range area six kilometres north of Avlona. On several occasions, helicopters from both sides overflew parts of the buffer zone. In one incident, a Cyprus police helicopter landed at Athienou, despite denial by UNFICYP of a request for it to enter the buffer zone.

6. Both sides continued to upgrade their military capabilities. It is estimated that there are over 30,000 Turkish forces and some 4,500 Turkish Cypriot troops on the island. The Turkish forces continued to modernize their equipment by replacing M48A5T1 tanks with M48A5T2 tanks.

7. The National Guard’s strength is approximately 14,500. During the period under review, the Government of the Republic of Cyprus reconfirmed its plan to deploy S-300 surface-to-air missiles unless there was progress in negotiations towards an overall settlement or towards the demilitarization of the island. This continued to be criticized by Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot authorities. The military airbase in Paphos has been declared operational, although it has not yet come into use. The establishment of this airbase has also been strongly protested by Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot authorities.

8. In spite of the Security Council’s call in resolution 1146 (1997) for an early agreement to and rapid implementation of the UNFICYP package of measures to reduce tension along the ceasefire lines, no agreement has been reached on the matter. The military authorities in the north have reconfirmed their earlier acceptance of the UNFICYP package of measures in its entirety. The National Guard has accepted the code of conduct and the prohibition of loaded weapons, but has continued to reject UNFICYP proposals for the unmanning of positions in close proximity to each other on the grounds that it would leave the inhabitants of Nicosia unprotected. The National Guard has made counter-proposals, which, in the view of UNFICYP, would not contribute to the key objective of creating distance between the soldiers deployed on each side of the buffer zone. With regard to the Dherinia area, the National Guard’s counter-proposal would entail the unmanning of the entire area between Dherinia and Varosha and would go well beyond the limited objective of creating distance between the opposing forces. UNFICYP will continue its efforts to gain acceptance by both sides of the UNFICYP package of measures presented in June 1997.

9. UNFICYP continued to carry out regular inspections of the 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.

10. UNFICYP continued to monitor maintenance of the status quo in the fenced area of Varosha. There were numerous instances of property being removed from buildings by Turkish personnel, which UNFICYP protested to the Turkish forces.

11. UNFICYP freedom of movement in the northern part of the island continued to be restricted, and the Force remained subject to stricter limitations than those imposed on tourists and foreign diplomats. During the period under review, the National Guard restricted movement by UNFICYP humanitarian personnel at the Potamia checkpoint on several occasions.

12. There are 38 minefields and booby-trapped areas inside the buffer zone and a further 73 located within 500 metres of it. UNFICYP has again requested both sides for precise information before presenting proposals for the removal of the minefields located within the buffer zone. The National Guard has stated its readiness to hand over minefield records provided that the other side does the same. The military authorities in the north indicated that they would be ready to negotiate the minefield issue with UNFICYP immediately following agreement on the UNFICYP package of measures to reduce tension along the ceasefire lines. UNFICYP will continue to seek information about minefields from both sides. The danger inherent in the present situation was highlighted on 12 January 1998, when an excavator being operated by two United Nations personnel working on the Lefka road in the buffer zone detonated an anti-tank mine. Fortunately, both escaped without injuries, but the road has been closed to all UNFICYP traffic for safety reasons.

13. Greek Cypriot hunters frequently entered the buffer zone during the hunting season. On 14 December 1997, southwest of Lefka, a shotgun was negligently discharged in the direction of a member of UNFICYP civilian police, and on 28 December 1997, in the area of Dhenia, several shots were fired over the heads of an UNFICYP patrol. These incidents were protested to the appropriate authorities.

B. Restoration of normal conditions and humanitarian functions

14. On 26 December 1997, the Turkish Cypriot authorities announced that they were re-evaluating bi-communal contacts in the context of the situation that had arisen as a result of the summit meeting of the European Union in Luxembourg, and that, as of 27 December, all bi-communal activities would be suspended. Despite repeated requests, the Turkish Cypriot authorities have continued to prevent Turkish Cypriot participation in bi-communal meetings on the island.

15. The Turkish Cypriot side repeatedly complained that an all-encompassing embargo was continuing against Northern Cyprus, which has been imposed by the Greek Cypriot authorities since 1963. This embargo covers all spheres of life, including international relations, travel, trade, tourism and the economy in general, as well as sports and cultural and social activities. The Turkish Cypriot authorities protested that this leads to the isolation of the Turkish Cypriot community from the rest of the world and creates distrust and a crisis of confidence between the two sides on the island. They claim that while this embargo continues, the superficial attempt to bring together members of the two sides serves no useful purpose, and that the creation of trust and confidence depends on the removal of these measures.

16. A number of Greek Cypriot and Greek civilians were apprehended in the northern part of Cyprus after crossing the buffer zone and were detained by the Turkish Cypriot authorities. In each case, UNFICYP humanitarian and medical personnel visited the detainees and arranged for family visits in the place of their detention. All of them were subsequently released. In some instances, efforts are continuing for the release of their belongings held in the northern part of Cyprus. Four Turkish Cypriots and four Turkish citizens are being held in the custody of the Cypriot police. Two of them, who were arrested on 23 October 1997 south of the National Guard ceasefire line near Louroujina, were eventually charged with livestock and arms smuggling. After frequent adjournments, their trial ended on 11 April. On 25 May, 7 months after their arrest, they were sentenced to one year in prison. UNFICYP maintains that whenever civilians cross the other side’s ceasefire line in a non-belligerent manner, they and their belongings should be returned without delay.

17. On 21 December 1997, UNFICYP arranged for 193 Greek Cypriots to visit the Apostolos Andreas Monastery on the Karpas Peninsula. On 31 January 1998, 1,285 Turkish Cypriots visited the Hala Sultan Tekke Mosque in Larnaca, and 1,314 visited it on 9 April 1998. On 7 and 14 March 1998, 94 Turkish Cypriot students were permitted access to the Kokkina enclave by land to mark anniversaries there. The Greek Cypriot pilgrimage to Apostolos Andreas Monastery scheduled for 19 April 1998 was cancelled owing to the imposition of the new charges mentioned in paragraph 21 below.

18. An expanded and automated telephone connection between the northern and southern parts of Cyprus was inaugurated on 4 May at the Ledra Palace Hotel. Since 1974, the United Nations had provided the only telephone connection between the northern and southern part of Cyprus. The existing operator-assisted telephone connections had, for some time, been insufficient for the growing demand from both sides, which had resulted in delays and inconvenience to users. The upgraded service will significantly increase the handling capacity, thus eliminating the delays that users had frequently experienced.

19. Demonstrations by Greek Cypriots at the South Ledra checkpoint continued, mainly on weekends, with the aim of dissuading tourists from crossing to the north. In some instances, organized groups of schoolchildren in uniform participated in demonstrations.

20. 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 460 Greek Cypriots in the Karpas area, two in Kyrenia and 173 Maronites in the Kormakiti area. Some 340 Turkish Cypriots in the southern part of the island have made themselves known to UNFICYP. The living conditions of Greek Cypriots and Maronites residing in the north have gradually improved over the past three years. Since the humanitarian review conducted by UNFICYP in 1995 (see S/1995/1020, paras. 20-25 and annexes), a number of incremental improvements have occurred that have been reported to the Council in previous reports. During the current reporting period, the Turkish Cypriot authorities lifted most age restrictions for Greek Cypriot and Maronite children visiting their families in the north, although the age limit of 16 remains in force for Greek Cypriot boys. Two new telephone lines were installed in Leonarisso recently.

21. However, in mid-February, the Turkish Cypriot side imposed new regulations and fees for entry to and exit from the north. Greek Cypriots and Maronites from the southern part of Cyprus visiting relatives residing in the northern part must pay a fee of 15 pounds sterling per adult per visit. All residents in the northern part, Greek Cypriots, Maronites, nationals of other countries and Turkish Cypriots, travelling to the southern part have to pay a 4 transit charge, or 10 per month for multiple visits. These new charges have significantly reduced the number of Greek Cypriots and Maronites visiting their relatives in the northern part of Cyprus. Effective 17 April 1998 , these regulations were adjusted with respect to Maronites, who were granted a reduction of the charges to 4 per visit per adult or 30 per year for multiple visits for the entire family. The charges for Greek Cypriots remain unchanged.

22. Although the standard of living of Greek Cypriots on the Karpas Peninsula does not differ significantly from that of Turkish Cypriots living in the same area, the major restriction remains that Greek Cypriots and Maronites cannot bequeath their property, even to their next of kin, unless their heirs also live in the northern part of the island. Otherwise, immovable property is expropriated by the Turkish Cypriot authorities when the owner dies.

23. In accordance with the agreement reached by the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities on 31 July 1997 (see S/1997/962, para. 21), on 23 January 1998, in the presence of my Deputy Special Representative, the two sides met to exchange information concerning the location of graves of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot missing persons. They also agreed to meet again to discuss the preparation of arrangements leading to the return of the remains of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot missing persons. In a further meeting on 30 April, however, the Turkish Cypriot representative stated that he was not prepared to discuss the necessary arrangements leading to the exhumation and return of the remains of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot missing persons until the Greek Cypriot side, as proof of its sincerity, agreed to first look into the fate of the Greek Cypriot victims of the coup d’ιtat against Archbishop Makarios in 1974. The Turkish Cypriot side claims that victims of the coup d’ιtat are among those persons listed as missing. This position deviates from the 31 July 1997 agreement, which calls on the two sides to work out arrangements for the exhumation and identification of the remains located in the graves on which information was exchanged on 23 January 1998. As a result of the position taken by the Turkish Cypriot side, no progress has been made towards the implementation of the 31 July 1997 agreement. The Greek Cypriot side has since decided to begin exhumation and identification of the remains located in graves in the area under its control.

III. COMMITTEE ON MISSING PERSONS

24. In accordance with the terms of reference of the Committee on Missing Persons, upon the recommendation of the International Committee of the Red Cross, and following consultations with both sides, I am appointing Mr. Jean-Pierre Ritter as the new third member of the Committee on Missing Persons for an 18-month period. I urge both sides to accord him their full cooperation with a view to discharging the Committee’s responsibilities expeditiously.

IV. 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. Owing to poor rainfall and saline contamination, water supplies on the island continue to diminish. Wherever possible, UNFICYP encourages civilian use of the buffer zone for peaceful purposes, such as industrial or agricultural work or maintenance of public utilities and communications.

26. In March 1998, the United Nations Development Programme and the United States Agency for International Development reached an agreement for the United Nations Office for Project Services to take over functions carried out by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees until December 1997. Focusing on reconstruction and development, this programme will continue to give priority to bi-communal activities in public health, environment, sanitation, water, urban renovation, restoration and preservation of cultural heritage, education and natural resources. It will also provide financial and technical support to selected civil society organizations and non-government organizations.

V. ORGANIZATIONAL MATTERS

27. As of 30 April 1998, UNFICYP comprised 1,226 troops and 34 civilian police. The military personnel are from Argentina (410), Austria (259), Canada (3), Finland (1), Hungary (107), Ireland (29), Slovenia (10), and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (407). On 24 May 1998, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland began deployment of a company of 97 Netherlands personnel integrated within the British contingent of UNFICYP without increasing the overall strength of the unit. The civilian police are provided by Australia (20) and Ireland (14). In addition, UNFICYP currently has a civilian component of 44 international staff and 288 local staff. The number of local staff will be reduced to 221 by 1 July 1998.

28. 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. He will relinquish his post on 30 June 1998, and the Security Council has agreed to the appointment of Ms. Ann Hercus to succeed him (see S/1998/388 and S/1998/389). Major-General Evergisto A. de Vergara continued as Force Commander.

VI. FINANCIAL ASPECTS

29. The proposed budget for the maintenance of UNFICYP for the period from 1 July 1998 to 30 June 1999 is currently under consideration by the General Assembly. The cost of maintaining the Force for the 12-month period is estimated at $43,000,900 gross (A/52/775/Add.1). That amount is inclusive of the pledged voluntary contributions of one third of the cost of the Force from the Government of Cyprus and of the $6.5 million contributed annually by the Government of Greece. Therefore, should the Security Council decide to extend the mandate of UNFICYP beyond 30 June 1998, the annual cost of maintaining the Force would be limited to the amount indicated above.

30. As of 30 April 1998, the total outstanding assessed contributions to the UNFICYP Special Account amounted to $15.6 million, representing some 13.5 per cent of the assessment for the Mission since 16 June 1993. The outstanding assessed contributions for all peacekeeping operations amounted to $1.5 billion.

VII. OBSERVATIONS

31. During the last six months, the situation along the ceasefire lines in Cyprus was relatively calm, despite continued tension. This found expression in frequent minor violations. Both sides continued to respect the ceasefire arrangement of 1974. Nevertheless, both sides continued to challenge the delineation of the ceasefire lines in certain areas and UNFICYP authority in the buffer zone.

32. 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 on both sides. There has also been no progress concerning the package of reciprocal measures proposed by UNFICYP to reduce tension along the ceasefire lines, notwithstanding the Security Council’s calls for early agreement to and rapid implementation of these measures. UNFICYP will continue its efforts towards that end.

33. It is regrettable that Turkish Cypriots were not allowed to participate in bi-communal activities sponsored by UNFICYP and others. There is evident value in direct contacts between the members of the two communities, especially in times when tensions are relatively high. I urge both sides, and in particular the Turkish Cypriot side, to facilitate arrangements within which bi-communal contacts can take place uninterrupted and without formalities.

34. The presence of UNFICYP on the island remains indispensable 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 31 December 1998. I am consulting the parties concerned on the matter and shall report to the Council as soon as these consultations have been completed.

35. 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.

36. In conclusion, I wish to express my warm appreciation to my Deputy Special Representative and Chief of Mission in Cyprus, Mr. Gustave Feissel, upon his retirement at the end of June after a long and distinguished career in the service of the United Nations. 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.

 

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