14 June 2024 - Address by the Minister of Foreign Affairs at the event on “60 Years of UNFICYP”

Address by the Minister of Foreign Affairs at the event on “60 Years of UNFICYP”


Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to start by thanking you for your presence here today.   

We gather at the UN Headquarters, to paytribute to the thousands of men and women who have served, and continue to serve in Cyprus.

In honouring their important contribution in Cyprus, we also recognize the vital role of UN peacekeeping worldwide.  

Without a doubt, it has proven to be one of the most effective instruments of conflict mitigation and stabilization.

For over seven decades, Peacekeeping Operations have proved that multilateralism works. 

UN peacekeepers, around the world, have helped countries to navigate the difficult path:from conflict to peace; from instability to resilient security.  

The Republic of Cyprus, as one of the few UN members states that is both a host country and a troop contributor, can attest to the necessity of sustaining and supporting UN peacekeeping. Particularly, in the face of ever-evolving challenges.

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

This year marks 60 years since the establishment of UNCIFYP and the arrival of the first UN contingent in Cyprus.

The historical context is important in order to fully appreciate the value of the service provided. One, that went beyond the call of duty. 

In December 1963, armed clashes broke out in Cyprus. The UN Security Council was seized on the matter. 

UNFICYP was established on the 4th of March 1964, pursuant to Security Council Resolution 186 and with the consent of the Republic of Cyprus.  

The Force was tasked to preserve “international peace and security […], to use its best efforts to prevent a recurrence of fighting and, as necessary, to contribute to the maintenance and restoration of law and order and a return to normal conditions.”  

In terms of time-span, the Force was initially given a three-month mandate. 

It has since been 60 years. 

And today, the Republic of Cyprus is hosting one of the longest-running peacekeeping operations in the world.

Let me now turn to the substantive work of the Force. And the point of reference is the summer of 1974. UNFICYP’s contribution has been extremely important.  

We know of the Force’s tireless efforts to limit the suffering of civilians and refugees.  

Of its attempts to broker local ceasefires and bring about reconciliation even in the midst of war.

It is safe to argue that UNFICYP’s performance during the summer of 1974, was a highlight in UN’s peacekeeping history. 

A prime example of what devoted peacekeepers, with limited resources, can achieve in the face of grave adversity.  

In this respect, I would like to pay tribute to the dedication and determination of General Prem Chand of India, UNFICYP’s Force Commander at the time. 

He was instrumental in leading his small team without fear and with devotion to the core values of the United Nations. 

They pushed to curb the worst excesses of the invading forces. They stood their ground. And they set an example. 

Members of the Force served the UN and Cypriots with courage, some giving their lives during their service. 

In particular, Austrian peacekeepers were killed when the Turkish Airforce bombarded their vehicle bearing the UN flag. 

Australian peacekeepers lost their lives from a mine in the area of Lefka.

Their sacrifice is not forgotten. And the Republic of Cyprus remains grateful. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

In the immediate aftermath of the Turkish invasion, UNFICYP assisted the High Commissioner for Refugees, the ICRC and other international organizations in relief efforts. 

They rendered assistance to the victims, provided humanitarian relief to the displaced, facilitated deliveries of medical and food supplies, and worked for the location of missing persons, as well as the release of prisoners.  

To this day, UNFICYP exercises its humanitarian mandate to facilitate normal living conditions for the Greek Cypriots and Maronites that remain enclaved in the occupied areas of Cyprus.

In implementing its mandate for the prevention of a recurrence of fighting, the Force assumed the supervision of the 180-kilometre-long ceasefire line.  

While there has not been open conflict since 1974, peace remains elusive, and UNFICYP retains its significance in maintaining the ceasefire on the island, preventing escalation,and protecting civilians.

The conflict is not frozen. Turkish occupation remains a painful reality, an ongoing violation of Public International Law, a constant reminder that a member state of this Organisation faces, on a daily basis, the existential threat of the aggressor.

The attacks against members of the Peacekeeping Force last August which the international community has condemned in the strongest possible terms, as well as the recent forward movements of the occupying forces, are manifestations of the current challenges.

Time tends to blur the memory. And perceptions soon follow. 

Balancing, seeing shades of grey, sharing the blame, all these are to be expected IF we decide to forget why this great Organisation exists, what it represents, what are its founding values. 

Compliance and dedication to the UN Charter, to Public International Law, to international legality, are not and cannot be optional or linked to time.  

Not unless we want to undermine the most important International Organisation that exists. 

The UN cannot be selective. The UN cannot be threatened. The UN cannot water down the principles for which servicemen and women have sacrificed their lives.  

An invasion took place. There is a victim and an aggressor. There is a state that is member of the UN and an illegal entity, the product of an aggression. 

The median line, or the landing zone of equal distance, is dangerous. And it should not be associated with the UN.

Dear friends, 

Today, from the heart of the UN, I wish to express our sincere appreciation to the thousands of men and women who have served, and continue to serve, for the benefit of peace in Cyprus. 

I wish to express the gratitude of the Republic of Cyprus and of all the people of Cyprus, to the United Nations and to the 43, soon to become 44, troop contributing countries. 

And, I would like to ask you to join me in paying tribute to all 187 peacekeepers who have lost their lives while serving in Cyprus.

In a few moments, we will be able to visit the photographic exhibition which is dedicated to the 60-year history of UNFICYP.

We will witness the multifaceted role of UNFICYP and the invaluable contributions of the military, police and civilian peacekeepers, which encapsulates the spirit of collective action in the service of peace.

The depiction of history, also serves as a reminder that we are still facing significant and serious challenges. 

We need - soon - to put an end to UNFICYP’s presence in Cyprus.  And the only way to do this, is through the solution of the Cyprus problem and the reunification of our country. This is our wish, our hope, and our commitment.

This will be the best expression of gratitude to the 150,000 men and women that have served in the Force, to the UN and the contributing countries.

We remain forever grateful. 

Thank you.