United Nations Peace Force Is Deployed in Cyprus Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The U.N. Force in Cyprus was established in the wake of an outbreak of ethnic violence between Greek and Turkish residents of the island. It was meant to prevent escalation of the fighting in Cyprus, help restore law and order, and foster peaceful conditions favorable to a negotiated settlement of the problem.

Summary of Event

Cyprus and the human rights of its people became a major issue at the United Nations in the 1950’s. From 1954 to 1958, Greece appealed five times to the General Assembly for the termination of British colonial rule and the application of self-determination for the island. The Greek appeals were aimed at internationalization of the issue and the exercise of pressure on Great Britain to withdraw from Cyprus. The settlement reached in 1959 and the subsequent establishment of an independent Cypriot republic in 1960, however, were not the direct result of U.N. involvement or application of human rights principles. Instead, a settlement was agreed upon in a Western setting through Greek-Turkish negotiations carried out in Zurich and London under British auspices. United Nations;peacekeeping Civil unrest;Cyprus Postcolonialism;Cyprus United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus Cyprus;ethnic struggles Nationalism;Greek Cypriots Nationalism;Turkish Cypriots [kw]United Nations Peace Force Is Deployed in Cyprus (Mar. 27, 1964) [kw]Peace Force Is Deployed in Cyprus, United Nations (Mar. 27, 1964) [kw]Cyprus, United Nations Peace Force Is Deployed in (Mar. 27, 1964) United Nations;peacekeeping Civil unrest;Cyprus Postcolonialism;Cyprus United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus Cyprus;ethnic struggles Nationalism;Greek Cypriots Nationalism;Turkish Cypriots [g]Europe;Mar. 27, 1964: United Nations Peace Force Is Deployed in Cyprus[08000] [g]Cyprus;Mar. 27, 1964: United Nations Peace Force Is Deployed in Cyprus[08000] [c]United Nations;Mar. 27, 1964: United Nations Peace Force Is Deployed in Cyprus[08000] [c]Wars, uprisings, and civil unrest;Mar. 27, 1964: United Nations Peace Force Is Deployed in Cyprus[08000] [c]Diplomacy and international relations;Mar. 27, 1964: United Nations Peace Force Is Deployed in Cyprus[08000] Makarios III Kutchuk, Fazil Thant, U [p]Thant, U;peacekeeping

The United Nations was asked again to intervene in Cyprus after the eruption of ethnic violence on December 22, 1963. The island was beset by ethnic differences and controversies over the rights of the Greek Cypriot majority and the Turkish Cypriot minority. Following three years of simmering tension and confrontation over constitutional matters, the two communities, with support from their motherlands, resorted to arms. Some ethnic segregation and much human suffering resulted from the hostilities. When fighting broke out, the Cypriot government, headed by Makarios III, appealed to the U.N. Security Council for help against acts of aggression and intervention in the internal affairs of Cyprus.

In Makarios’s view, the declared intention of Turkey to intervene in Cyprus by force threatened the sovereignty and political independence of the island, in direct violation of the United Nations’ charter and principles. Therefore, his government argued, it was “in the vital interests of the people of Cyprus as a whole, and in the interest of international peace and security” that the Security Council take measures to remedy the situation. The first Cypriot resort to the United Nations proved abortive, since Makarios agreed, after a short session of the Security Council, to attend a peace conference in London.

On February 15, 1964, following the failure of the London conference and further escalation of fighting and suffering, the Cyprus government reactivated its appeal to the United Nations. On the same day, the British government filed a similar request for a Security Council meeting. For the Cypriot government, the problem was the imminent danger of a Turkish invasion. The British appeal stressed the domestic nature of the ethnic dispute and blamed the Makarios government for inability to restore law, order, and internal security.

Two blocs with different positions emerged during the debate. One bloc included Turkey, Great Britain, and the United States, and argued that the problem was basically one of internal conflict and disorder for which the Cypriot government was largely responsible. As the Turkish representative put it, the cause of the problem was Makarios’s attempt to bring about changes in the political structure of the Cypriot state at the expense of the Turkish Cypriot minority. A different view was advanced by the Greek Cypriots, who received the full support of Greece and the Soviet Union. They argued that the problem facing Cyprus was one of circumscribed independence caused by the 1960 settlement of the colonial problem, a settlement imposed on Cyprus by outside powers.

The three-week-long acrimonious debate ended with the adoption of Resolution 186 on March 4, 1964, urging all parties to respect the territorial integrity and political independence of the sovereign Republic of Cyprus. The resolution also recommended the appointment of a U.N. mediator and the creation of the U.N. Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) to preserve international peace and security and to cooperate with the government of Cyprus in restoring law and order. The United States and Great Britain, which for weeks had been arguing for a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) peace force and resisting any U.N. involvement, in the end decided not to veto the resolution. The West appeared to view the risks of U.N. involvement in Cyprus as less than the risks of delay in getting a peace force there. The most vital and urgent goal of Anglo-American policy was to restore peace and prevent an escalation of the crisis that could lead to a Greek-Turkish war. Developments in the eastern Mediterranean region, including war preparations on both sides of the Aegean, indicated a real threat of military confrontation.

Great Britain had additional reasons for letting the United Nations assume the peacekeeping role. Ethnic violence was directly affecting its extensive military installations on the island, including two important sovereign bases. Moreover, the former colonial power had been trapped into shouldering alone the burden of peacekeeping. As the British delegate put it to the Security Council, his country was not willing to go on policing Cyprus alone for a day longer than was necessary. Escalation of violence on Cyprus was accompanied by threats, charges, and countercharges coming from Nicosia, Athens, Ankara, London, Washington, and Moscow. The New York Times, commenting editorially on the imminent danger facing international peace, wrote that Cyprus was threatening “to embroil Europe, the United States, and even the whole world in its petty communal strife.”

The creation and deployment of the U.N. peacekeeping force occurred in this setting of spreading violence and increasing ethnic segregation. During the first two months of fighting, hundreds of people were killed or wounded, hundreds were taken hostage, and thousands became refugees on both sides. President Makarios III had been the strongest proponent of a U.N. force, and its deployment was a major victory for him. By having U.N. troops on Cyprus, he thought he could eliminate any prospect for the dispatch of NATO troops and also limit the peacemaking role of British troops, which had lost the trust of the Greek Cypriots. Makarios also hoped that a U.N. force would serve as a deterrent against external military intervention and be seen as a multinational shield protecting the island from a Turkish invasion.

On March 6, 1964, U.N. secretary-general U Thant appointed Lieutenant General Prem Singh Gyani Gyani, Prem Singh of India as the first commander of the UNFICYP. According to the Security Council mandate, the composition of the force would be decided by the secretary-general in consultation with the governments of Cyprus, Great Britain, Greece, and Turkey. The first Canadian troops arrived on March 13, but the force did not become operational until March 27, when a sufficient number of troops were deployed and able to discharge their functions. The original mandate provided for a three-month stationing, but subsequent consecutive extensions, first for three-month and later for six-month periods, kept the force in Cyprus through the early twenty-first century. By June, 1964, the force reached its maximum strength of 6,411. The size and composition of the force have varied. The countries with the largest contingents have been Great Britain, Canada, Finland, Ireland, Sweden, and Denmark. Smaller units were sent by Australia, Austria, and New Zealand.

Significance

The UNFICYP’s mission was spelled out in Security Council Resolution 186 Security Council Resolution 186, U.N. (1964) as follows: “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.” Following the Greek coup against Makarios, invasion of Cyprus by Turkey, and division of the island in 1974, the main function of the force was to supervise the hundred-mile-long cease-fire line between Greek Cypriot forces in the south and Turkish and Turkish Cypriot forces in the north.

Like other U.N. peacekeeping operations, the ultimate objective of the UNFICYP was to create and maintain peaceful conditions favorable for a negotiated and lasting settlement of the problem. Besides supervising cease-fires and preventing recurrence of fighting, the UNFICYP was also extensively and actively involved in humanitarian and relief efforts. These efforts were aimed at helping individuals and groups on both sides go about their daily business without disruption by the conflict.

Restoring basic civilian services and economic activities was a major concern for the force. Some of the measures taken in that direction included mediation and facilitation of exchange of hostages and prisoners; cooperation with the Red Cross, Red Crescent, and other relief agencies in helping refugees, protecting lives, and minimizing suffering; arranging for the supply of vital utilities, such as water, electricity, and telephone services; providing postal service, public benefits, and medical treatment; escorting people and convoys carrying medicine, food, and other essential merchandise; and enabling farmers to cultivate lands in the buffer zone.

In 1974, during the large-scale hostilities that followed the Turkish invasion, the UNFICYP was instrumental in evacuating thousands of foreign tourists and families of foreign diplomatic missions. Evacuees were first transferred to the British Sovereign Base Areas and then shipped out of Cyprus. United Nations;peacekeeping Civil unrest;Cyprus Postcolonialism;Cyprus United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus Cyprus;ethnic struggles Nationalism;Greek Cypriots Nationalism;Turkish Cypriots

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Attalides, Michael A. Cyprus: Nationalism and International Politics. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1979. A widely cited book by a Princeton-educated Greek Cypriot. It discusses sociopolitical changes in Cyprus and the role of external factors in shaping the dynamics of the domestic ethnic conflict. United Nations involvement and U.S.-Soviet rivalry are discussed extensively.
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    The Blue Helmets: A Review of United Nations Peace-Keeping. New York: United Nations, 1985. An overview of a dozen U.N. peacekeeping operations in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. The chapter on Cyprus includes a narrative on the peacekeeping force as well as other efforts by the international organization to resolve the ethnic conflict. A good source of information on peacekeeping.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Dodd, Clement H. The Cyprus Imbroglio. Huntingdon, England: Eothen Press, 1998. Analysis of the many factors that make finding a way forward in Cyprus so difficult. Bibliographic references and index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Ehrlich, Thomas. Cyprus, 1958-1967: International Crises and the Role of Law. New York: Oxford University Press, 1974. The work of a prominent academic with a scholarly and legal perspective. It examines the origin, elements, and consequences of the Cyprus problem from the viewpoint of international law and the U.N. Charter. Focuses on major crises and outside interference during the critical period of the declaration of independence and the eruption of ethnic violence.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Harbottle, Michael. The Impartial Soldier. New York: Oxford University Press, 1970. The author was commander of the United Nations Force in Cyprus from 1966 to 1968. He provides an insider’s account of the role, functions, and problems of peacekeeping.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Joseph, Joseph S. Cyprus: Ethnic Conflict and International Concern. New York: Peter Lang, 1985. A work of scholarly analysis and interpretation examining the causes and dynamics of the Cyprus conflict at both the domestic and international levels. United Nations involvement is discussed extensively in the light of repeated efforts to resolve violent crises and reach a peaceful settlement.
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    xlink:type="simple">Katsiaounis, Rolandos, ed. United Nations Security Council and General Assembly Resolutions on Cyprus, 1960-2002. Nicosia: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus, 2003. Collection of four decades of U.N. resolutions on Cyprus.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Mayes, Stanley. Makarios: A Biography. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1981. Perhaps the best and most comprehensive biography of Makarios. An informative and fascinating account of the personal life and political achievements of the charismatic archbishop and first president of Cyprus. It also provides a good overview of United Nations involvement in Cyprus.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Stegenga, James A. The United Nations Force in Cyprus. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1968. Although it covers only the early years of the United Nations Force in Cyprus, it is still the best work on the topic. It evaluates the role, successes, and failures of the force. Although it focuses on peacekeeping, it also helps the reader understand the issues and complexities of the conflict between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Xydis, Stephen G. Cyprus: Conflict and Conciliation, 1954-1958. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1967. A monumental work on the colonial problem of Cyprus and the practice of international diplomacy at the United Nations. It provides an extensive account and thorough analysis of the five consecutive Greek appeals to the General Assembly from 1954 to 1958. It is especially good for the scholar looking for information on events that led to the independence of Cyprus.

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