November 23, 2017

Changes in the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus

According to a Cyprus News Agency report, the United Nations peacekeeping force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) underwent expected changes in force level on the 31st of January, as part of restructuring decided upon by the UN Security Council last October. According to UNFICYP Spokesman Brian Kelly “the reason that there has been such movement of troops in the last couple of days and over the last month is that we are at the point in the peacekeeping annual schedule when rotations take place” he added that “it is a rotation with a difference, meaning those leaving will not be replaced as part of that downsizing. By the end of January UNFICYP’s military strength will be reduced from 1,230 to around 900 en route to the 860 target which will be reached by late March-early April.”

Last October the UN Secretary General had stated that after a review of UNFICYP had been undertaken, the Cyprus peacekeeping force would be reduced by a third from the current level of 1,230, but retain its original mandate of maintaining order and preventing a recurrence of fighting. These troop reductions will be shared equally between each of the contributing countries, with all of the main contingents being cut by around 30 percent.

As part of these cutbacks, UNFICYP is to abandon fixed observation posts and camps in favor of mobile units and helicopter patrols. This new concept of UNFICYP operations named by the Secretary General “Concentration with Mobility”, falls within the scope of rationalizing peacekeeping operations by utilizing all available resources, while also making better use of technology.

As UNFICYP Chief of Mission , Mr Zbigniew Wlosowicz, said in New York during the deliberations of the Security Council on the review of UNFICYP “what is being proposed in the report is a decrease in our military component by 30% which makes 860 down from 1230 and a slight increase in civilian political component. We make sure though that whatever is done to UNFICYP or changing UNFICYP will not jeopardize its capacity to be effective.”

On his part, Ambassador Andreas Mavroyiannis, the Permanent Representative of Cyprus to the UN responding to the changes to the UNFICYP force noted that “For as long as the Turkish occupation of Cyprus persists, the potential risk to security remains unchanged and renders necessary the continuation of the mandate of the UN peacekeeping operation in Cyprus . We take note of the assessment of the Secretary-General that the security situation on the island has become increasingly benign, but we also have to keep in mind that it is of the utmost importance to safeguard and sustain this improved climate, which is necessary for the successful outcome of any future effort for the solution of the Cyprus problem. The role of UNFICYP in achieving this goal is particularly important and the success of this Force, as of any other peacekeeping operation for that matter, can only be measured by its contribution to making its ‘raison d’ etre’ void.” He also pointed out that any review on UNFICYP should be carried out in accordance with objective criteria, based on the situation on the ground.

UNFICYP was first deployed in 1964. The governments of Cyprus and Greece voluntarily contribute over half of the cost of the force. Turkish troops have occupied 37% of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus since 1974 in violation of numerous UN resolutions calling for their immediate withdrawal.