May 18, 2021

S/1998/1149 – Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations operation in Cyprus

United Nations


  Security Council Distr.: General

7 December 1998

Original: English



(for the period from 9 June to 8 December 1998)



1. The present report on the United Nations operation in Cyprus covers developments from 9 June to 8 December 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, in resolution 1178 (1998) of 29 June 1998, the Council decided to extend the mandate of UNFICYP for a further period ending on 31 December 1998. I will report to the Council separately on my mission of good offices.



A. Maintenance of the ceasefire and the military status quo

2. During the period under review, the situation along the ceasefire lines remained essentially as last reported. There has also been no change, so far, on the subjects addressed in paragraphs 4 to 7 of Security Council resolution 1178 (1998). As in the past, there were a number of instances of both sides moving forward of their ceasefire lines into the United Nations buffer zone. The National Guard, in particular, continued significant military construction along its ceasefire line, some of which encroached on the buffer zone. On occasion, National Guard personnel challenged both the delineation of the buffer zone and UNFICYP authority in it. There seemed to be a lack of general understanding of the concept of the buffer zone as originally outlined in paragraph 19 of the then Secretary-General’s report of 9 December 1976 (S/12253) and endorsed by the Foreign Minister of Cyprus in a statement before the Security Council on 14 December 1976 (S/PV.1979). Therefore, UNFICYP has resumed the practice of providing briefings to officers explaining its role and responsibilities in the buffer zone.

3. There were a number of shooting incidents in the buffer zone, most of them heard, but not observed, by UNFICYP. Most of these incidents were caused by hunters, while negligent discharges of firearms by one of the opposing forces were the second most frequent cause. When such incidents involved military personnel, UNFICYP investigated them at the request of one or the other side. Owing to lack of detailed information or timely access, UNFICYP was in most cases unable to obtain sufficient evidence to determine who had fired. UNFICYP protested all shooting incidents that it could attribute to one of the two sides.

4. Despite strong protests by UNFICYP, the National Guard continued its large military construction project mentioned in my previous report (S/1998/488, para. 4). This construction involves anti-tank ditches and other defensive fortifications on the ceasefire line east and south-east of Nicosia, as well as a network of bunkers with connecting trenches east of the Old City of Nicosia, and constitutes a significant change in the military status quo. In some places, the construction encroaches on the buffer zone by a few metres. There were also numerous incidents of National Guard personnel restricting UNFICYP movement at checkpoints on the edge of the buffer zone.

5. There was an increase in crossings of the maritime security lines, i.e., the seaward extension of the median of the buffer zone which both sides are advised not to cross for their own security. Incidents have occurred when Greek Cypriot fishing or tourist boats deliberately cross the maritime security lines and are challenged by Turkish Forces. On 25 August 1998, a Turkish Cypriot patrol vessel fired at and hit a Greek Cypriot fishing boat after it had crossed the maritime security lines.

6. While troop levels remained unchanged, both sides continued to upgrade their military capabilities. The arrival of S-300 surface-to-air missiles, which has been a matter of controversy for nearly two years, was postponed until the end of the year.

7. The annual National Guard exercise “Nikiforos” was conducted from 20 to 25 October in conjunction with the Greek exercise “Toxotis”. It involved the integrated participation of the Greek Air Force and Navy, which deployed fighter aircraft and naval vessels to Cyprus. During the exercise it was announced that construction plans for a naval base at Zygi, east of Limassol, were complete and that preliminary work had started. UNFICYP has observed some dredging there.

8. On 25 October, four Greek Air Force F-16 fighters participating in the Nikiforos exercise flew over the buffer zone in the area of Louroujina. There were also a number of helicopter overflights of the buffer zone during the reporting period. UNFICYP protested these violations.

9. The annual Turkish forces exercise “Toros II” took place from 18 to 20 November in conjunction with the naval exercise “Sea Determination”. During the exercise, Turkish military aircraft and naval vessels were deployed to the northern part of the island. On two occasions on 18 June, two Turkish Air Force F-16s crossed both ceasefire lines and entered the south by approximately 500 metres. UNFICYP protested these violations.

10. UNFICYP continued to monitor maintenance of the status quo in the fenced area of Varosha. There were a number of reported instances of property being removed from buildings. UNFICYP protested them to the Turkish forces, which the United Nations holds responsible for the maintenance of the status quo in the fenced area of Varosha.


B. Restoration of normal conditions and humanitarian functions

11. As a result of the suspension of bi-communal contacts by the Turkish Cypriot authorities in December 1997, there has been no Turkish Cypriot participation in bi-communal meetings on the island. However, there have been some meetings off-island with Turkish Cypriots in attendance. On 24 October 1998, an international United Nations Day organized by UNFICYP at the Ledra Palace Hotel in the buffer zone was attended by some 5,000 people from both communities and diplomatic missions. UNFICYP also held two other smaller functions involving, among others, representatives from both communities. The Turkish Cypriot policy has not only limited intercommunal contacts, but has also hindered routine UNFICYP liaison between health, water and electricity officials of both sides.

12. During the period under review, 2 Turkish Cypriots and 11 Turkish citizens crossed the buffer zone to the south and were detained by the Cyprus police, charged with illegal entry, fined and returned to the northern part of the island or to Turkey. UNFICYP humanitarian and medical personnel visited the detainees and arranged for family visits in the place of their temporary detention. Efforts are continuing to obtain the release of their belongings held in the southern part of Cyprus. On 21 July 1998, two Greek tourists crossed the buffer zone to the north and were apprehended, but were subsequently released. 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.

13. On 8 August 1998, 721 Turkish Cypriots were given access by land to the Kokkina enclave to attend a memorial service there. On 13 September, 1,276 Greek Cypriots were allowed to make a pilgrimage to the Apostolos Andreas Monastery on the Karpas Peninsula. A further pilgrimage took place on 30 November 1998. UNFICYP assisted in arranging these events.

14. Demonstrations by Greek Cypriots at the crossing point in Nicosia continued, mainly on weekends, with the aim of dissuading tourists from visiting the north. On 19 July and 4 October, Greek Cypriot demonstrators entered the buffer zone, but were escorted back to the south by UNFICYP. There were also a number of rallies and demonstrations along the National Guard ceasefire line in July and August in Dherinia, Nicosia and Peristerona. In many instances, organized groups of schoolchildren in uniform accompanied by teachers participated in these demonstrations.

15. 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 457 Greek Cypriots in the Karpas area and one in Kyrenia, as well as 171 Maronites in the Kormakiti area. Some 339 Turkish Cypriots in the southern part of the island have made themselves known to UNFICYP.

16. On 2 October, the Turkish Cypriot authorities informed UNFICYP that they were reviewing legislation that barred Greek Cypriots and Maronites residing in the northern part of the island from bequeathing their movable and immovable property to heirs who did not reside there. Pending the review, such estates would not be seized or made available for occupation by third persons, although they would continue to be placed in the custody of the authorities. Turkish Cypriot authorities also announced the lifting of controls on the movement of Greek Cypriots and Maronites in the north and of the limit on visits by first-degree relatives from the south to Greek Cypriots in the Karpas. UNFICYP is trying to establish how these measures are being applied in practice. The regulations and fees imposed by the Turkish Cypriot authorities in February 1998 for entry to and exit from the northern part of the island remain in place.



17. Where possible, UNFICYP facilitates civilian use of the United Nations buffer zone for peaceful purposes, such as industrial or agricultural work or maintenance of public utilities and communications. To regularize access to the buffer zone, UNFICYP has established written agreements for civilians owning land or businesses there. 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.

18. The United Nations Development Programme through the United Nations Office for Project Services is implementing a bi-communal development programme that started in April 1998 and is aimed at promoting confidence-building by encouraging the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities to work together in the preparation and implementation of projects in areas of mutual concern, notably public health, environment, sanitation, water, urban renovation, preservation of cultural heritage, natural resources and education. There are four ongoing projects (three of which are within the context of the Nicosia master plan): the rehabilitation of the neighbourhoods of Chrysaliniotissa and Arab Ahmet in Nicosia, the restoration of the Nicosia Venetian Walls, the Nicosia sanitation sewerage system and the development of the village of Pyla. Up to US$ 30 million will be allocated over a period of three years.



19. As of November 1998, UNFICYP comprised 1,230 troops and 33 civilian police. The military personnel are from Argentina (411), Austria (244), Canada (3), Finland (1), Hungary (107), Ireland (29), Slovenia (26) and the Netherlands and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (409). In September, Slovenia increased its contribution, whereas the Austrian contingent was reduced by the equivalent number of soldiers. The civilian police are provided by Australia (18) and Ireland (15). UNFICYP currently has 41 international civilian staff and 221 local staff.

20. UNFICYP is one of the oldest peacekeeping operations, and the focus of some of its activities has shifted over time in response to changing operational requirements. In 1993, the Force underwent a major downsizing and restructuring, both in terms of its operations in the buffer zone and logistic support. During the past six months, a further review has focused on bringing UNFICYP in line with the approaches in more recently established peacekeeping missions, while achieving additional efficiencies by integrating civilian and military personnel in terms of sharing responsibilities and decision-making, initiating more transparency and better financial controls. This includes, in particular, the consolidation of responsibility for intercommunal liaison, economic and humanitarian tasks in a new Civil Affairs Branch with both civilian and military personnel. This takes into account changes over time in the mission’s activities in the humanitarian and economic fields, which now focus predominantly on civil affairs matters, such as the support of persons working or living in the buffer zone and in locations beyond the respective ceasefire lines. The restructuring will enhance the ability of UNFICYP to discharge its mandated responsibilities effectively and efficiently. It can be implemented without an increase in the authorized staffing of the mission.

21. Diego Cordovez remained my Special Adviser on Cyprus. Ann Hercus took office as my Deputy Special Representative and Chief of Mission of the United Nations operation in Cyprus on 1 July. Major-General Evergisto A. de Vergara continued as Force Commander.



22. The General Assembly, by its resolution 52/241 of 26 June 1998, appropriated an amount of $45,276,160 gross for the maintenance of UNFICYP for the 12-month period from 1 July 1998 to 30 June 1999. This amount includes the pledged voluntary contributions of one third of the cost of the Force, equivalent to $14,512,300, from the Government of Cyprus and the annual pledge of $6.5 million from the Government of Greece.

23. Therefore, should the Security Council decide to extend the mandate of UNFICYP for a further period of six months as recommended in paragraph 27 below, the cost of maintaining the Force would be approximately $22.6 million. Of that amount, approximately $12.1 million would be assessed on Member States.

24. As at 30 November 1998, unpaid assessments to the special account of UNFICYP from 16 June 1993 to 31 December 1998 amounted to $16.5 million. Total outstanding assessed contributions for all peacekeeping operations at the same date amounted to $1,642.2 million.



25. During the past six months, the situation along the ceasefire lines remained generally calm, notwithstanding numerous minor violations. However, the situation in Cyprus is not static, and the continued upgrading of military equipment and infrastructure gives cause for concern.

26. UNFICYP continued to use its best efforts to maintain the ceasefire by controlling the United Nations buffer zone between the forward lines of the opposing forces and responding quickly to any incidents. It also provided necessary liaison and support on a range of practical matters. The changes to be made in its headquarters organization are designed to improve these services to the two sides. In this connection, it is to be hoped that the Turkish Cypriot authorities will reconsider their position concerning contacts between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots on the island.

27. The presence of UNFICYP on the island remains indispensable for the maintenance of the ceasefire between the two sides. I recommend that the Security Council extend the mandate of the Force for a further period of six months, until 30 June 1999. I am consulting the parties concerned on the matter and shall report to the Council as soon as the consultations have been completed.

28. In conclusion, I wish to pay tribute to my Deputy Special Representative and Chief of Mission in Cyprus, Ms. Hercus, to the Force Commander, Major-General de Vergara, 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. I should also like to express my appreciation to the Governments contributing troops and civilian police to UNFICYP for their steadfast support and to thank the Governments that have made voluntary contributions towards the financing of the Force.