By Spyros Hadjigregoriou
The recent hints that US President Donald Trump may reduce the US’ annual contribution to the UN for peacekeeping missions plus other pressures that could see the peacekeeping force in Cyprus reduced or withdrawn can be interpreted as pressuring the Greek Cypriot side to speed up the talks to solve the Cyprus problem.
With the possibility that this might happen, it is worth considering the background to Unficyp’s arrival and the cost of its presence.
After the intercommunal clashes of December 1963, the Cypriot government filed a petition to the UN Security Council simultaneously requesting the abolition of the treaties of alliance and guarantee (note the echoes for today). This was rejected and instead the Security Council adopted resolution 186 of March 4, 1964 which authorised the secretary-general to appoint a special representative for Cyprus and to establish a peacekeeping mission to restore peace and security on the island. By March 27, 1964 Finnish diplomat Sakari Severi Touomiya had been appointed as special representative and Indian general Prem Singh Gyani as military commander.
Some fifty years later in August 2014, the secretary-general appointed Espen Barth Eide as his special advisor. He told me at a personal meeting that he hoped to be the last and thus there would be no need to rewrite my book dealing with the 24 previous special representatives who served in Cyprus.
I sincerely hope he will not depart from Cyprus before a solution of the Cyprus issue.
Down the years, we have spent many billions of dollars maintaining Unficyp.
The budget for July 2015 to June 2016 was $54.2 million. The Cyprus government pays one third of this, the Greek government pays the annual fixed amount of $6.5 million, while the rest is covered by the UN general budget.
Additionally, 21 countries maintain, at their own expense, their military respective contingents for peacekeeping duties in our country. Another considerable cost.
In addition, the Cyprus government has pledged to provide the Ledra Palace Hotel, Nicosia airport and other facilities free of charge to cover all other needs of UNFICYP.
The government has also undertaken to pay for maintaining the office of the special representatives.
Just imagine how if there were a solution, the money the government spends on Unficyp could be allocated to health and education instead
Nothing has been learned from our mistakes. Elam recommends that our schools celebrate the anniversary of the Enosis referendum and demand that Eide leave Cyprus. Meanwhile, the supporters of the so-called “patriotic front” oppose a bicommunal, bizonal Cyprus as discussed by the two leaders.
The historian Constantinos Paparigopoulos said that “as long as we claim that everyone else has sinned while we are sinless, it would be difficult to stop sinning”.
Spyros Hadjigregoriou is a Nicosia-based accountant and auditor