It was exactly ten years ago on Sunday (17 March) that the United Nations peace Keeping Force was established in Cyprus.
It was exactly ten years ago on Sunday (17 March) that the United Nations peace Keeping Force was established in Cyprus. The continuing disagreement between the Greek and Turkish communities on the Island still keeps the 3,000 man peace force busy.
A contingent of Canadian troops was the firs to be sent. They arrived in Nicosia on 17 March 1964. Britain has maintained the largest contingent since, reinforced by battalions from Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Ireland and later from Austria. Civilian police units came from Australia, Austria, Denmark, Sweden and New Zealand.
It has cost United Nations member states $165 million (GBP 70 million) in voluntary contributions to maintain the force. It took over from a 7,000 man British "true force" which moved in between the two communities when fighting broke out at Christmas 1963.
The U.N. forces are spread around the Island in a web of outposts and district headquarters. A unit of the Australian police contingent is stationed at Limassol on the south coast. Their main duties are to patrol the villages in the area and to act as a link between the two communities.
U.N. forces also help escort convoys of Greek Cypriot motorists form the capital, Nicosia, to the Greek Cypriot city of Kyrenia on the north coast. This saves the travellers a long drive by allowing them to out through Turkish Cypriot zones. At a checkpoint in Nicosia, the number of people in each car, and its registration number are carefully noted, before they drive through.
Only one U.N. solider - a Finn - has been killed in actual hostilities since the force was set up, but several solider have died in accidents on the Island's winding mountain roads.
The forces experience in Cyprus has also proved useful in other parts of the world.
Half of the force was sent to Egypt last October ???eep the peace on a buffer zone along the Suez between Egypt an Israel, but is now back up to its former strength of 3,000.
Intercommunal talks have been going on between the two sides in Cyprus for the past eighteen months in an attempt to the break the deadlock and the U.N. military commander joins in frequent talks with both sides to smooth out disputes. U.N. officials in Cyprus believe the peace force will be needed until agreement has been reached between the Turkish and Greek populations on the Island on practical ways of sharing the administration of the Island and day-to-day life.