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Discussion on Unficyp renewal set for July 19, ‘no fast changes’ expected

The UN Security Council will decide on the renewal of the mandate of the peacekeeping force in Cyprus (Unficyp) on July 19 and according to the UN there will be “no fast changes” regarding the future of the peacekeeping mission.

Aleem Siddique, the spokesman for Unficyp asked by CNA to comment on recent reports saying that the US administration was seeking to introduce budget cuts in peacekeeping missions around the world.

He noted that Unficyp mandate ends on July 31, 2017 and that the relevant discussion at the Security Council for its renewal is scheduled for July 19.

According to Siddique, the UN is “constantly reviewing and assessing operations”, adjusting them accordingly in order to stay “relevant and cost efficient”.

“We are talking to the US administration, reminding them of the important role that our missions play in providing a window of opportunity for the political talks to succeed,” he told CNA.

“Where there is no chance of political talks succeeding, then we need to look at how we are to adapt to those missions” he added.

According to Siddique, these decisions cannot be taken in one or two weeks, but entail a strategic review. “We need to have an assessment and there is a unanimous view in the Security Council that if they are going to downsize the mission, this will happen after a strategic review” he explained.

“Any decision on the future of Unficyp is a decision that will be made by the Security Council at UN headquarters and not at field level, here in Cyprus,” he said.

He added that the Secretary-General was totally committed to reforming the United Nations and ensuring that it is fit for that purpose and delivers results in the most efficient and cost-effective manner.

“After having been here for 53 years, we cannot just leave tomorrow” Siddique said.

In relation to Washington’s intentions over the UN peacekeeping budget, he said that “the budgetary process in the US is complex and lengthy and it needs to be completed”.

“We are indeed very grateful for the support the United States has given to the United Nations over the years as the organisation’s largest financial contributor,” he added.

Unficyp’s annual budget is currently at around US$67m, one third of which is covered by the Republic of Cyprus and another $6m by Greece. The remainder comes from UN member states, with the US contribution standing at 28.5 per cent.

Siddique also said that the UN was closing some of its operations, such as the Mission in Cote d’Ivoire on June 30, and the Mission in Liberia that will end its mandate next year.

“All of these changes, coupled with our continuing efforts to be more effective, enable us to deploy more than 120,000 uniformed and civilian peacekeepers in difficult and challenging environments around the world at just half of one percent of global military spending,” he said.

“We stand ready to discuss with the United States and any other member state how best we can create a more cost-effective organisation to pursue our shared goals and values”.
The Unficyp spokesman was also asked by CNA to comment on the decision by the government of Australia not to renew its contribution to the UN Police Force  (Unpol) at the end of this month.

He said there would be no change in the numbers of the force.
He also said that a flag-lowering ceremony is scheduled for Friday for the Australian withdrawal.
Australia has “a very proud and honourable record of service within Unficyp in the cause of peace for Cyprus,” Siddique said.

The Australian police officers will be replaced by an increase in police officers from the contingents of the 17 member states who also contribute to the Unpol.

“There will be no change in the numbers of UN Police”, he said adding that Unficyp will retain the number of 69 officers serving in Cyprus.

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