AFTER 53 years, the Australian contingent of the UN peacekeeping force (Unficyp) lowered its flag for the last time on Friday ahead of its departure from Cyprus mainly for budgetary reasons.
Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in Cyprus and Head of Mission, Elizabeth Spehar said Australia was departing at an important moment in the island’s history.
“Australia has been sending its finest to this mission for 53 years, from Unficyp’s earliest days,” she said. “Australia’s sustained support to UNFICYP is but one example of the country’s deep commitment to peace and security worldwide, reflected in its place within the top 12 financial contributors to UN peacekeeping globally.”
Some 1,600 Australian police peacekeepers have served in Cyprus over half a century since 1964, three of whom were killed. In 2017, there were seven Australians serving in Unpol.
Australia’s decision to withdraw was made in 2015, an Australian government statement said, having taken into account a range of considerations
The level of increased interest and capacity of many EU and EU-candidate states in shouldering regional peacekeeping tasks, in particular in a fellow-EU member state was one.
“Australia’s important role in this mission, and the collegiality and professionalism of its police officers, will be sorely missed,” Spehar said. “We are also encouraged by the commitment of Australia to offer its assistance to the parties for the development of a future federal police force of a united Cyprus. Yours is a successful model from which Cyprus could surely benefit significantly.”
Spehar noted that the Australian police “depart as we enter a potentially defining moment in the island’s history,” adding that “it is our sincere hope that the continuation of the negotiations in Switzerland at month’s end will bear fruit, and that the long sought-after goal of a re-unified island will be realised.”