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ARE United Na­tions troops in Cyprus keep­ing the peace or just en­joy­ing an ex­tended “hol­i­day”?

Nearly 35 years af­ter the first UN sol­diers were sent in amid in­ter­com­mu­nal vi­o­lence, it’s a ques­tion that has long been posed about what was once said to have been dubbed the “Volvo post­ing” by Swedish peace­keep­ers for the “easy money” it was said to rep­re­sent.

The de­bate has resur­faced re­cently — with crit­ics point­ing to the in­ter­na­tional body’s fail­ure to make good on for­mer leader Kofi An­nan’s 2004 call for the iso­la­tion of Turk­ish Cypri­ots to be ended, and ask­ing whether it needs “boots on the ground” to fa­cil­i­tate peace talks.

Now sug­ges­tions are emerg­ing that the UN Peace­keep­ing Force in Cyprus (Unficyp) be re­mod­elled to re­flect cur­rent con­di­tions on the is­land — and money saved on troop costs ploughed into rec­on­cil­i­a­tion in­stead.

Deputy Prime Min­is­ter and For­eign Min­is­ter Ku­dret Öz­er­say fired an ini­tial salvo in the lat­est dis­cus­sions, telling a con­fer­ence at Lon­don’s Chatham House ear­lier this year that Unficyp should be abol­ished be­cause it had “turned into a mere postal ser­vice”.

Last month it was re­vealed that, while at Septem­ber’s UN Gen­eral Assem­bly ses­sion in New York, he had for­mally re­quested re­lo­ca­tion of the Gen­eral Ste­fanik camp, next to Gaz­i­mağusa’s Eastern Mediter­ranean Univer­sity (EMU).

Dr Öz­er­say said the camp, which hosts he­li­copter traf­fic, was no longer ap­pro­pri­ate in the mid­dle of what has be­come a busy stu­dent and res­i­den­tial area since the base was set up in 1964 — and his con­cerns are be­ing backed by lo­cal res­i­dents in a pe­ti­tion.

But Al­pay Dur­du­ran, of the New Cyprus Party, chipped in last week, blast­ing what he called an at­tempt “by some cir­cles” to dis­credit the UN “by la­belling them as use­less”.

In a side­swipe at Dr Öz­er­say, he claimed the Turk­ish Cypriot side had been put in “a very bad po­si­tion be­fore the eyes of the world” by ask­ing Unficyp to re­lo­cate from Gaz­i­mağusa and “try­ing to get hold of this area”, and blamed “ob­sti­nate na­tion­al­is­tic at­ti­tudes”.

Pro­fes­sor Ah­met Sözen, po­lit­i­cal science and in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions lec­turer at Eastern Mediter­ranean Univer­sity, said there was “of course” con­tro­versy over the UN’s role in Cyprus — “whether they are needed, pro­duc­tive, pro­tect­ing peace or even con­tribut­ing to the divi­sion of the is­land”.

He told Cyprus To­day: “The is­sue of the UN arouses po­larised view­points within our com­mu­nity, with one side say­ing they should leave en­tirely, whilst the op­pos­ing view is that the UN is needed in con­tribut­ing to a com­pre­hen­sive so­lu­tion.

“My per­sonal take, is that al­though there are prob­lems with the UN and they aren’t the most ef­fi­cient . . . at peace­keep­ing, the world would not be bet­ter with­out the UN.”

Dr Sözen com­mented that Unficyp had been man­dated in 1964 for “strictly peace­keep­ing pur­poses”. UNFICYP threw a re­cep­tion hosted by the mis­sion’s com­man­der, Eliz­a­beth Spe­har, in the buf­fer zone to mark Oc­to­ber 24’s UN Day — the “birth­day” of the UN char­ter.

In a mes­sage for the oc­ca­sion, UN Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res said the body “em­bod­ies the hopes, dreams and as­pi­ra­tions of ‘we the peo­ples’”.

Unficyp is one of the UN’s long­est-run­ning peace mis­sions, with 850-plus troops and more than 60 civil­ian po­lice now sta­tioned on the is­land.

The force su­per­vises the 180km “ceas­fire line” and has a bud­get for the cur­rent year, from July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019, of $55,152,000.

De­spite re­peated at­tempts, Cyprus To­day was un­able to reach a spokesman to counter crit­i­cism of the force’s role.

Unficyp’s web­site says its work is based on four com­po­nents: the mil­i­tary, UN Po­lice, the Civil Af­fairs Branch and the ad­min­is­tra­tion which sup­ports all ac­tiv­i­ties. In all, it has al­most 1,100 per­son­nel.

“So, are they keep­ing the peace to­day? Yes, to a cer­tain ex­tent.

“Are they, how­ever, peace build­ing? This is prob­lem­atic. UN peace forces have re­stric­tions con­cern­ing peace build­ing. If I were the sec­re­tary-gen­eral, I would re-eval­u­ate the man­date of UN

The 1964 man­date of Unficyp, set out in UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tion 186 (1964) af­ter in­ter­com­mu­nal fight­ing and a con­sti­tu­tional cri­sis, rec­om­mended the es­tab­lish­ment of the force to “pre­vent a re­cur­rence of fight­ing; con­trib­ute to the main­te­nance and restora­tion of law and or­der; [and] con­trib­ute to a re­turn to nor­mal con­di­tions”.

Since 1964, more than 180 UN per­son­nel have died while serv­ing with the force.

Mr Guter­res on Thurs­day an­nounced the ap­point­ment of Ma­jor Gen­eral Ch­eryl Pearce of Aus­tralia as new Unficyp Force Com­man­der, re­plac­ing Ma­jor Gen­eral Mo­ham­mad Hu­mayun Kabir of Bangladesh, who com­pleted his two-year as­sign­ment on Oc­to­ber 6.

peace­keep­ing forces, re­duce forces and switch the bud­get to peace-build­ing and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.

“The man­date of 1964 needs to be re-adapted to to­day’s con­di­tions and needs.”

Dr Sözen added that Turk­ish Cypri­ots were “disa UN for not back­ing that their “yes” vote eren­dum had “undo keep [them] sub­ject re­port be­ing “the fir to have been en­dor Coun­cil”.

For­mer peace t Beş­par­mak think-ta Er­tuğ agreed there fresh eval­u­a­tion of U

“The UN still Cyprus,” he said. man­date of 1964. T strictly cease­fire-m with a much-re­duce

“The man­date o

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