Cyprus: Building bridges between neighbours

 

The arrival of the new Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG),Michael Møller, in January and the new Force Commander, Major- General Rafael José Barni, in early March set the tone for the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) in 2006.

 

Secretary-General Kofi Annan met Greek Cypriot leader Tassos Papadopoulos in Paris in February and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat in Geneva in November to review the progress made towards achieving a peaceful and united Cyprus.

 

The visit by Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari to the island in July became the catalyst for a two-track process to launch bi-communal discussions on everyday technical matters including an exchange of substantive issues for review and approval by both sides.

 

In late March, the refurbished Astromeritis- Zodhia/Bostanci crossing, the island’s fifth buffer zone crossing point linking north and south, was reopened thanks to a European Union (EU)-funded road improvement scheme. By the end of the year, the focus had shifted to Nicosia’s Ledra Street and renewed efforts to open a crossing in the heart of the old town.

 

In July, UNFICYP lent support to colleagues and many others trapped in the devastating developments in neighbouring Lebanon. UNFICYP helped bring 1,222 evacuees to safety from Beirut and ports in southern Lebanon, including 392 UN staff and dependents. On two occasions, an UNFICYP helicopter flew to Beirut carrying the Lebanese Prime Minister and senior officials between Cyprus and the 26 July summit in Rome.

 

Assistance to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) continued in August when the remains of Augustine Bielonwu,a civilian UNIFIL staff member killed during an Israeli rocket attack on 17 July in Tyre, were brought to Nicosia, where a memorial service was held.

 

On 22 November, two landmines were detonated in the buffer zone in a joint EU/UN ceremony to signify that Nicosia had become mine-free. In acknowledging the EU’s contribution, the SRSG noted that the de-mining effort had removed 2,810 mines from 25 minefields and had cleared 1.8 million square metres of land in the buffer zone since its launch in November 2004.

 

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Prepared by the Peace and Security Section, United Nations Department of Public Information.

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