The UN peacekeeping force’s (Unficyp) 60-year presence in Cyprus serves as a sad and urgent call to “take the courageous steps needed” and move towards lasting peace, the force’s chief Colin Stewart said on Friday.

Speaking at an event in Nicosia’s old town hall marking Unficyp’s 60th anniversary on the island, he said that peacekeeping is not a solution, and there was never an intention to stay in Cyprus for six decades.

Although Unficyp was initially tasked with a three-month mandate, “little did they imagine that 60 years later, that same peacekeeping mission and mediation would still be working and that the Cyprus problem would remain unresolved,” Stewart underlined.

Foreign Minister Constantinos Kombos paid tribute to the 187 peacekeepers who lost their lives while serving in Cyprus.

Υπουργός Εξωτερικών – 60 xρόνια ΟΥΝ

Colin Stewart on a display of troops making up Unficyp’s peacekeeping force

Stewart said Monday marks an important but sad anniversary for the UN presence on the island as six decades ago, on March 4, 1964, the UN Security Council, alarmed by the escalation of intercommunal violence adopted resolution 186. It decided that the situation demanded the establishment of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force and the appointment of a mediator on the Cyprus issue.

“That the Cyprus issue has remained unresolved for so long should be a matter of utmost urgency to all Cypriots and to their friends and partners in the international community,” Stewart stressed.

“I hope that all relevant actors will seize the opportunity of the appointment of a personal envoy by the Secretary General, to work with her, with genuine commitment and take the courageous steps that are needed to find a mutually acceptable way towards a lasting peace. This is an opportunity that must not be missed.”

He cautioned that the absence of a solution for all this time has translated into a deep and growing divide between the communities and has increased militarisation of the buffer zone, keeping UN peacekeepers busy with hundreds of incidents of various types every year.

Υπουργός Εξωτερικών – 60 xρόνια ΟΥΝ

Unficyp head Colin Stewart (left) and Foreign Minister Constantinos Kombos

“Sixty years is a very long time. Throughout the years, Unficyp has adapted its work to the realities of the island, from a force of 6,000 military and policemen in 1964, indeed there were very few women in those days, to a lean and integrated team of some 1,100 military, police and civilian women and men today, including women in leadership roles. We have striven to prevent further conflict and create conditions for settlement by bridging the divisions between the communities and helping build confidence in a shared future,” he added.

Kombos presented Stewart with a commemorative plaque in acknowledgment of Unficyp’s services during the past 60 years.

“Unficyp has played a valuable role. We are grateful to the UN for the 60 years of service. We are thankful to the troop- and police-contributing countries, to the 150,000 men and women in uniform that have served with Unficyp over the years.

We soon need to put a stop to the presence of Unficyp in Cyprus. The only way to do so is to have a solution of the Cyprus problem; we remain forever grateful.”