NEWS

UN renews its Cyprus mission, doubles police

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) – The United Nations Security Council renewed the UN mission on Cyprus for six months yesterday, doubling the size of its small police unit to handle the new flow of people between the two sides of the divided island. Set up in 1974, the mission (UNFICYP) comprises 1,228 peacekeeping troops and 35 civilian police. The council voted unanimously to extend UNFICYP’s mandate for another six months, to December 15, and authorized an increase of up to 34 police officers. Last week, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the council that the force did not have the resources to handle the flow of people through the UN-patrolled buffer zone between the Greek-speaking south and the Turkish-Cypriot north of the island. Almost 175,000 people crossed the so-called Green Line in the week after authorities in the Turkish-Cypriot breakaway state opened two crossing points for the first time in 29 years on April 23, Annan said. Since then, more points had opened and the flow had stabilized at an average of 13,000 people a day, he said. The breakaway state is recognized only by Turkey and is not a member of the United Nations. But before the vote to renew the mandate in Resolution 1486, council President Sergei Lavrov, Russian ambassador to the UN, said he had met representatives of both sides and had concluded that the vote could proceed – in effect confirming that the Turkish-Cypriot side had agreed with the decision. The resolution welcomed «the partial easing of restrictions on island-wide freedom of movement, which has been met by good will from Greek and Turkish Cypriots.» But it noted that UNFICYP has been denied access to Strovilia, a hamlet inhabited by Greek Cypriots near the port of Famagusta since June 2000, and it urged the Turkish-Cypriot side and Turkish forces to «rescind all remaining restrictions.» UNFICYP was sent to Cyprus in March 1964 after intercommunal riots. It remained there after Turkish forces invaded in July 1974 and occupied the northern third of Cyprus in response to a coup by Greek nationalists seeking union with Greece, then under military rule.