UNFICYP Commander Kristin Lund said the force was talking with the two sides in an attempt to have them clean up the remaining minefields in the buffer zone.
In an interview with the Cyprus News Agency she highlighted the consequences of failing to do so, citing as an example that there were minefields only 20 minutes away from the tourist resort of Ayia Napa.
“We are talking with the different sides and tell them that the issue of mines is a humanitarian one. We want them to clean up their minefields. That is the message from us,” she said. There were four remaining minefields in the buffer zone, she added.
Lund said the buffer zone should be useable but safe for people such as farmers. “That is why we have a permit system,” she said.
The permit system allows the UN “to know who is in the buffer zone, doing what type of activity.”
“Sometimes, she said, “when those procedures are not followed there can be issues. Although the buffer zone is a calm and stable place, it is still a place where you have two opposing forces. We want to make it useable and normalised, as it is a part of our mandate to create a return to normal conditions, but also to keep people safe.”
Asked about the possibility of reducing the force numbers further, Lund said there was no such proposal or plan.
“That is not on my agenda. At least, I hope not, because I need every one”, she added.
In December 2014, the strength of the military component stood at 860 for all ranks and the strength of the police component stood at 66.
Replying to a question about relations between the two communities from her perspective in the eight months she has been in Cyprus, she said she had found that there were many common interests.
“My job is primarily to be involved in the military”, she says, adding however that through her participation in various events she has noticed that “there are many common interests”.
“That is good to see,” she added.
Lund is the first woman to be appointed Commander in Chief of a UN Peacekeeping Force. She is asked whether she felt she had paved the way for others or whether she was the exception to the rule. She expresses the hope that she “has paved the way for others to see that it is possible.”
“There are so many clever women out there. I was at the right time, at the right place to get the first post,” she said. (CNA)