Establishment of UNFICYP

Note: this history section is an online version of the chapter about UNFICYP in "The Blue Helmets - A Review of United Nations Peace-keeping," a United Nations publication. It covers the period from the establishment of UNFICYP in 1964 until 1996. 

Creation of the force

On 15 February 1964 the representatives of the United Kingdom and of Cyprus requested urgent action by the Security Council. On the same day, the Secretary-General appealed to all concerned for restraint. He was already engaged in intensive consultations with all the parties about the functions and organization of a United Nations force, and, on 4 March, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 186 (1964), by which it noted that the situation in Cyprus was likely to threaten international peace and security, and recommended the creation of a United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), with the consent of the government of Cyprus.

The Council also called on all member states to refrain from any action or threat of action likely to worsen the situation in the sovereign Republic of Cyprus or to endanger international peace, asked the government of Cyprus, which had the responsibility for the maintenance and restoration of law and order, to take all additional measures necessary to stop violence and bloodshed in Cyprus, and called upon the communities in Cyprus and their leaders to act with the utmost restraint.

As for the force, the Council said its composition and size were to be established by the Secretary-General, in consultation with the governments of Cyprus, Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom. The Commander of the Force was to be appointed by the Secretary-General and report to him. The Secretary-General, who was to keep the governments providing the force fully informed, was to report periodically to the Security Council on its operation. The force's function should be, in the interest of preserving 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. The Council recommended that the stationing of the force should be for a period of three months, all costs pertaining to it being met, in a manner to be agreed upon by them, by the governments providing the contingents and by the government of Cyprus. The Secretary-General was also authorized to accept voluntary contributions for that purpose. By the resolution, the Council also recommended the designation of a mediator to promote a peaceful solution and an agreed settlement of the Cyprus problem.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cyprus promptly informed the Secretary-General that his government consented to the establishment of the force.

Operational establishment of UNFICYP

On 6 March, the Secretary-General reported the appointment of General Gyani as Commander of UNFICYP, and referred to his approaches to several governments about the provision of contingents. Negotiations with prospective troop-contributing governments encountered certain delays, relating to political as well as financial aspects of the operation.

Meanwhile, as the situation in Cyprus deteriorated further, the Secretary-General on 9 March addressed messages to the President of Cyprus and to the Foreign Ministers of Greece and Turkey, appealing for restraint and a cessation of violence. The government of Turkey sent messages to President Makarios on 12 March, and to the Secretary-General on 13 March, stating that unless assaults on the Turkish Cypriots ceased, Turkey would act unilaterally under the Treaty of Guarantee to send a Turkish force to Cyprus until the United Nations force, which should include Turkish units, effectively performed its functions. The Secretary-General replied immediately that measures to establish the United Nations force were under way and making progress, and he appealed to Turkey to refrain from action that would worsen the situation.

At the request of the representative of Cyprus, the Security Council held an emergency meeting on 13 March and adopted resolution 187 (1964). The resolution noted the Secretary-General's assurances that the force was about to be established, called on member states to refrain from action or threats likely to worsen the situation in Cyprus or endanger international peace, and requested the Secretary-General to press on with his efforts to implement resolution 186 (1964).

Upon the arrival of troops of the Canadian contingent on 13 March, the Secretary-General reported that the force was in being. However, it did not become established operationally until 27 March, when sufficient troops were available to it in Cyprus to enable it to discharge its functions. The three-month duration of the mandate, as defined in resolution 186 (1964), began as of that date. This development marked a new phase in the Cyprus situation. The Secretary-General noted that UNFICYP was a United Nations force, operating exclusively under the mandate given to it by the Security Council and, within that mandate, under instructions given by the Secretary-General. It was an impartial, objective body, which had no responsibility for political solutions and would not try to influence them one way or another.

The force now consisted of the Canadian and British contingents (the latter's incorporation in UNFICYP having been negotiated with the British government), and advance parties of Swedish, Irish and Finnish contingents. The main bodies of the last-mentioned three contingents arrived in April. A Danish contingent of approximately 1,000 as well as an Austrian field hospital arrived in May, along with additional Swedish troops transferred from the United Nations operation in the Congo. By 8 June 1964, the force had reached a strength of 6,411. As units of the new contingents arrived, certain units of the British contingent, which had formed part of the old peacemaking force and had been taken into UNFICYP, were repatriated. UNFICYP was thus established in 1964, with military contingents from Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Sweden and the United Kingdom, and civilian police units from Australia, Austria, Denmark, New Zealand and Sweden.

Under the terms of the 1960 Treaty of Alliance, Greece was given the right to maintain an army contingent of 950 officers and men on the island, and Turkey a contingent of 650. As already noted, the Turkish contingent left its camp when the intercommunal strife broke out and was deployed in tactical positions astride the Kyrenia road north of Nicosia, where it remained until 1974. The government of Cyprus, contending that the Turkish move was a breach of the Treaty, unilaterally abrogated it on 4 April 1964. However, both contingents remained on the island.

During the early stages of the functioning of UNFICYP, the Secretary-General proposed that the Turkish government should either order its contingent to retire to its barracks or accept his offer to put both the Greek and Turkish national contingents under United Nations command, though not as contingents of UNFICYP. Greece accepted the latter suggestion. Turkey put forward the condition that the Force Commander, before issuing orders to the Turkish contingent for any task or movement requiring a change in its present position, must have the prior consent of the Turkish government. As the Secretary-General considered this condition unacceptable, the two national contingents were not placed under United Nations command.