NEWS

Nicosia sends a signal to London

The Cypriot government has asked the United Nations to withdraw at least part of the British contingent from its peacekeeping troops on the island if the international organization decides to scale down its presence there, reports said yesterday. UN experts met with Cypriot officials this week as part of a process to determine whether to dismantle the international peacekeeping force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), which has been on the divided island for 40 years. Nicosia is upset by Britain’s stance on the possible reunification of the island, which they feel has favored the Turkish-Cypriot side. Government officials also believe it inappropriate that British soldiers participate in UNFICYP, as Britain is one of the island’s guarantor powers. According to state radio in Nicosia, the government has made it clear to UN officials that if their troops are to be removed, they would like all, or at least part, of the British force, to be the first to leave. However, government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides, indicated that Nicosia did not feel the political situation on the island was stable enough for the UN force to withdraw or make changes at this stage. Chrysostomides emphasised that the Cypriot government contributes more funds than any state to UNFICYP, paying approximately $14 million out of the $45 million needed each year for maintaining the peacekeeping troops on the island. UNFICYP is the world’s longest-serving peacekeeping force. It was originally sent to Cyprus to restore and maintain order during fierce intercommunal violence in 1964 and now patrols the 180-kilometer (112-mile) ceasefire line drawn up after the 1974 Turkish invasion.