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UNFICYP Background

The Republic of Cyprus became an independent state on 16 August 1960, and a member of the United Nations one month later. The Constitution of the Republic, which came into effect on the day of independence, was intended to balance the interests of both the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot communities. Cyprus, Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom entered into a treaty to guarantee the basic provisions of the Constitution and the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Cyprus.

«In the absence of a political settlement to the Cyprus problem, UNFICYP has remained on the island to supervise ceasefire lines, maintain a buffer zone, undertake humanitarian activities and support the good offices mission of the Secretary-General.»

The application of the provisions of the Constitution, however, encountered difficulties from the very beginning and led to a succession of constitutional crises. The accumulated tension between the two communities resulted in the outbreak of violence on the island on 21 December 1963. On 27 December, the Security Council met to consider a complaint by Cyprus charging intervention in its internal affairs and aggression by Turkey. Turkey maintained that Greek Cypriot leaders had tried for more than two years to nullify the rights of the Turkish Cypriot community and denied all charges of aggression.

Establishment of UNFICYP

On 15 February 1964, after all attempts to restore peace on the island had failed, the representatives of the United Kingdom and of Cyprus requested urgent action by the Security Council. On 4 March 1964, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 186 (1964) PDF Document, by which it recommended the establishment of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP). The Force became operationally established on 27 March 1964.

The mandate of UNFICYP was originally defined in the following terms: "…in the interest of preserving international peace and security, to use its best efforts to prevent a recurrence of fighting and, as necessary, to contribute to the maintenance and restoration of law and order and a return to normal conditions." That mandate, which was conceived in the context of the confrontation between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities in 1964, has been periodically extended by the Security Council.

A coup d'état in Cyprus on 15 July 1974 by Greek Cypriot and Greek elements favouring union with Greece was followed by military intervention by Turkey, whose troops established Turkish Cypriot control over the northern part of the island. The Security Council called for a ceasefire and laid the basis for negotiations between Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom. A de facto ceasefire came into effect on 16 August 1974.

Maintenance of Ceasefire and Military Status Quo

Following the hostilities of July and August 1974, the Security Council adopted a number of resolutions which have affected the functioning of UNFICYP and have required the Force to perform certain additional functions relating, in particular, to the maintenance of the ceasefire. Following the de facto ceasefire, UNFICYP inspected the deployment of the Cyprus National Guard and the Turkish and Turkish Cypriot forces, and ceasefire lines and a buffer zone were established between the areas controlled by the opposing forces.

The ceasefire lines extend approximately 180 kilometres (111.85 miles) across the island. The buffer zone between the lines varies in width from less than 20 metres (21.87 yards) to some 7 kilometres (4.35 miles), and it covers about 3 per cent of the island, including some of the most valuable agricultural land. Strict adherence to the military status quo in the buffer zone, as recorded by UNFICYP at the time, has become a vital element in preventing a recurrence of fighting. UNFICYP maintains surveillance through a system of observation posts, and through air, vehicle and foot patrols. The task of the Force has significantly been complicated by the absence of a formal ceasefire agreement. As a result, UNFICYP has been confronted with hundreds of incidents each year. The most serious incidents tend to occur in areas where the ceasefire lines are in close proximity, particularly in Nicosia and its suburbs.

Over the years, UNFICYP’s structure, strength and its concept of operations have been reviewed and adjusted on several occasions, in light of the developments on the ground. The Force has continued to investigate and act upon all violations of the ceasefire and the military status quo. Its reaction in each case depends on the nature of the incident and may include the deployment of troops, verbal and written protests and follow-up action to ensure that the violation has been rectified or will not recur. In addition to maintaining the military status quo, UNFICYP must also preserve the integrity of the buffer zone from unauthorized entry or activities by civilians. As a result, UNFICYP has from time to time become involved in crowd control. The Force has also continued its activities relating to clearing minefields located in the buffer zone.

The situation in the buffer zone between the two sides remained calm, and there has been a decrease in military violations. The opposing forces demonstrated restraint and overall good cooperation with UNFICYP. Nevertheless, that generally good cooperation has been marred by increased restrictions imposed on the Force by the Turkish forces, which has constrained its ability to carry out its mandate and posed significant difficulties for its personnel.

UNFICYP Police Component

UNFICYP’s civilian police maintain close cooperation and liaison with the Cyprus police and the Turkish Cypriot police on matters having intercommunal aspects. Together with the line units they contribute to law and order in the buffer zone and assist in investigations and in the Force's humanitarian activities.

Reporting to the Security Council on 27 May 2003 [S/2003/572] PDF Document, the Secretary-General recommended an augmentation of the UNFICYP’s police component by up to 34 officers or 69 totals. The augmentation became necessary because as of April 2003 several crossing points were opened by the Turkish Cypriot authorities for visits in both directions. Ensuring safe and orderly passage within the buffer zone was essentially is the task of UN police. In addition to the considerably increased functions of the UN police and the military in the buffer zone, there had also been a significant increase in the number of incidents requiring UNFICYP's involvement outside the buffer zone since the crossings had began. By its resolution 1486 (2003) PDF Document, the Security Council endorsed the increase of UNFICYP's police component.

Humanitarian Activities

Another major function entrusted to UNFICYP is to encourage the fullest possible resumption of normal civilian activity in the buffer zone. To this end, it facilitates the resumption of farming in the buffer zone; assists both communities on matters related to the supply of electricity and water across the lines; facilitates normal contacts between Greek and Turkish Cypriots; provides emergency medical services; and delivers mail and Red Cross messages across the lines.

UNFICYP also discharges certain humanitarian functions for the Greek Cypriots and a small Maronite community living in the northern part of the island. It also periodically visits Turkish Cypriots living in the southern part of the island and helps them maintain contact with their relatives in the north.

The Force cooperates with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in providing humanitarian assistance to needy displaced persons in Cyprus, and with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in particular in facilitating projects involving both communities.


In the absence of a political settlement to the Cyprus problem, the mandate of UNFICYP has been periodically extended. At the end of every six-month mandate period, the Secretary-General has reported to the Security Council, that in the light of the situation on the ground and of political developments, the continued presence of the Force remains indispensable, both in helping to maintain calm on the island and in creating the best conditions for his good offices efforts. For its part, the Council has regularly extended the mandate of the Force for six-month periods.

Secretary-General's Mission of Good Offices

Since the events of 1974, the situation in Cyprus has remained calm, although tension has arisen periodically. Both sides have generally respected the ceasefire and the military status quo. But, as the Secretary-General has repeatedly stated, the continuing quiet should not obscure the fact that there is only a ceasefire in Cyprus, not peace. The Security Council has declared on numerous occasions that the status quo is not an acceptable option. In the absence of progress towards a settlement between the two sides, the overall situation remains subject to sudden tensions, generated by events outside as well as within Cyprus.

The Secretary-General was first asked to you use his good offices in Cyprus by Security Council resolution 186 (1964) PDF Document of 4 March 1964. After the events of 1974, the Security Council, by its resolution 367 (1975) PDF Document of 12 March 1975, requested the Secretary-General to undertake a new mission of good offices with the representatives of the two communities. Since then, the successive Secretaries-General and their Special Representatives have tried to find a formula acceptable to both the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots. In the 1990s, there has been an intensification of efforts which led to fleshing out the essential elements of an overall settlement.

A further intensive effort was undertaken between 1999 and early 2003. Under the auspices of the Secretary-General, proximity talks were held between December 1999 and November 2000, and direct talks between January 2002 and February 2003. During the process the parties were not able to reach agreement without third party assistance. Accordingly, the Secretary-General submitted a comprehensive settlement proposal on 11 November 2002, a first revision on 10 December 2002, and a second revision on 26 February 2003. The plan, entitled "Basis for a Comprehensive Settlement of the Cyprus Problem", required a referendum in advance of 16 April 2003 to approve it and re-unify Cyprus.

Unanimously adopting resolution 1475 (2003) PDF Document, the Council gave its full support to the Secretary-General's "carefully balanced plan" of 26 February 2003 as a unique basis for further negotiations, and called on all concerned to negotiate within the framework of the Secretary-General's good offices, using the plan to reach a comprehensive settlement as set forth in the Secretary-General's report S/2003/398 PDF Document. The Council asked the Secretary-General to continue to make available his good offices for Cyprus.

On 10 February, 2004, following an invitation from the Secretary-General, the Greek Cypriot leader, Tassos Papadopoulos, and the Turkish Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktash, resumed negotiations on the basis of the Secretary-General's settlement plan. On 13 February, the Secretary-General announced that the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders had committed to his plan and a settlement was "in reach".

The proposed Foundation Agreement in “The Comprehensive Settlement of the Cyprus Problem” as finalized was submitted to separate simultaneous referenda on 24 April 2004. It was rejected by the Greek Cypriot electorate by a margin of three to one, and approved by the Turkish Cypriot electorate by a margin of two to one. It therefore did not enter into force.

Reporting on these developments [S/2004/437] PDF Document to the Security Council on 28 May 2004, the Secretary-General said that this outcome represented another missed opportunity to resolve the Cyprus problem. The decision of the Greek Cypriots must be respected, he said.

The latest attempt to find a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem was launched under United Nations auspices in September of 2008. The end goal of the talks has been agreed between the Parties and endorsed by the Security Council: a bizonal, bi-communal federation, with political equality and a single international personality.