If I had not been asked to attend a panel discussion in Cyprus on the 50th year of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), I would have missed it. After 50 years, the U.N. force has just become one of the “routines” of the Cyprus problem. However, the Security Council adoption of Resolution 186, and sending peacekeepers to Cyprus on March 4, 1964, was a landmark development.
The resolution had stressed that for a period of three months, UNFICYP would try “to prevent a recurrence of intercommunal fighting,” as well as “contribute to the maintenance and restoration of law and order” and “facilitate a return to normal conditions.” Under the Constitution of Cyprus, the government of the island was to be composed of Greek
and Turkish Cypriots. Turkish Cypriot ministers and deputies, as well as government employees, were expelled at gunpoint from their offices and workplaces. The new, all-Greek government was against the Constitution of the Cypriot Republic. But the resolution dispatching U.N. troops to the island considered the all-Greek government as the legitimate Cyprus government. One of the two founding peoples of the Cypriot Republic was given the title of the Cypriot government, while the other was left out in the cold. Thus, a vicious situation barring a resolution on the island was created.
UNFICYP was to stay on the island for a period of three months. Day dreamers at the time had hoped that within three months, Greek
Cypriots who were given the title of “legitimate government of Cyprus” would agree to a power-sharing resolution with the Turkish Cypriots left out in the cold without a government and scorned as a “minority” that was attempting to negotiate some privileged rights from that legitimate government. Fifty years on, people wishing to see a resolution to the Cypriot problem still hope a miraculous development might take place, but Greek
Cypriots concede there won’t be a deal before they agree to a power-sharing scheme.
Some people have already started saying that perhaps the puzzle might be unraveled by, for a change, starting at the end. That is, perhaps withdrawing U.N. troops and putting a formal end to the March 4, 1964, resolution help bring about a resolution to the Cyprus problem.
All through the past half-century, U.N. troops helped consolidate Greek
Cypriot claims that they were the sole government of the entire island. During the 1963-1974 period, they were spectators to Greek
Cypriot crimes, as the mandate was drafted wrongly to “help achieve government rule.” Since 1974, they have become “residents” of the buffer zone dividing the island into northern Turkish and southern Greek
Cypriot zones. Virtually since 1974, U.N. troops have become an international tourist force with handsome salaries.
What if U.N. troops were withdrawn from Cyprus? Will there be a confrontation of any sort? No? Why, then, has the Security Council continued to extend the mandate of the UNFICYP every three months since March 1964? If U.N. troops are withdrawn from the island, Greek
Cypriots will probably grasp the reality that sooner or later, the world will acknowledge the inalienable rights of Turkish Cypriots and recognize the existence of two separate democracies on the island. Scorning
Turkish Cypriots on European platforms; denying them even an observer post at the European
Parliament and expecting Turkish Cypriots to walk the extra mile each time hasn’t helped produce a resolution so far and unlikely never will.