UN ponders fate of Cyprus force

NICOSIA (AFP) – UN experts began yesterday assessing the role of the international peacekeeping force on Cyprus to determine whether the 40-year-old mission on the divided island could be dismantled. UN chief Kofi Annan called for the review after his peace plan to reunite the island collapsed when it was overwhelmingly rejected by Greek Cypriots in April, despite having been backed by the Turkish-Cypriot community. «A team has arrived in Cyprus from United Nations headquarters in New York to conduct a review of UNFICYP’s mandate, force levels and concept of operations, as called for by the secretary-general in his report of May 26, 2004,» a UN statement said. The United Nations Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) is the world’s longest-serving peacekeeping force, having been originally sent to Cyprus to restore and maintain order during fierce intercommunal violence in 1964. It has stayed ever since and now patrols the 180-kilometer (112-mile) ceasefire line drawn up after the 1974 Turkish invasion. But Annan said in his May report that in view of the «disappointing» April vote – which saw Cyprus join the EU on May 1 while still divided – an overall reappraisal of peacekeeping activities on the island was needed. Annan is expected to submit any recommendations by September, although Nicosia is opposed to any reduction in the 1,200-strong UN force or a change in its mandate. The four-member UN team is due to meet with Greek and Turkish-Cypriot representatives in the course of the fact-finding week. UNFICYP’s present six-month mandate expires in mid-December.

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