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. 

The Constitution

The Republic of Cyprus became an independent state on 16 August 1960, and a Member of the United Nations one month later. The Constitution of the Republic, which came into effect on the day of independence, had its roots in agreements reached between the heads of government of Greece and Turkey at Zurich on 11 February 1959. These were incorporated in agreements reached between those governments and the United Kingdom in London on 19 February. On the same day, the representatives of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities accepted the documents concerned, and accompanying declarations by the three governments, as "the agreed foundation for the final settlement of the problem of Cyprus". The agreements were embodied in treaties - the Treaty of Establishment and the Treaty of Guarantee, signed by Cyprus, Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom, and the Treaty of Alliance, signed by Cyprus, Greece and Turkey - and in the constitution, signed in Nicosia on 16 August 1960. 

The settlement of 1959 envisaged Cyprus becoming a republic with a regime specially adapted both to the ethnic composition of its population (approximately 80 per cent Greek Cypriot and 18 per cent Turkish Cypriot) and to what were recognized as special relationships between the Republic and the three other states concerned in the agreements. Thus, the agreements recognized a distinction between the two communities and sought to maintain a certain balance between their respective rights and interests. Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom provided a multilateral guarantee of the basic articles of the constitution. In the event of a breach of the Treaty of Guarantee, the three powers undertook to consult on concerted action, and, if this proved impossible, each of them reserved the right to take action "with the sole aim of re-establishing the state of affairs" set out in the treaty. Both the union of Cyprus with any other state and the partitioning of the island were expressly forbidden. The settlement also permitted the United Kingdom to retain sovereignty over two areas to be maintained as military bases, these areas being in fact excluded from the territory of the Republic of Cyprus.

The constitution assured the participation of each community in the exercise of the functions of the government, while seeking in a number of matters to avoid supremacy on the part of the larger community and assuring also partial administrative autonomy to each community. Under the constitution, their respective communities elected the president, a Greek Cypriot, and the vice-president, a Turkish Cypriot, and they designated separately the members of the Council of Ministers, comprising seven Greek Cypriots and three Turkish Cypriots. The agreement of the president and vice-president was required for certain decisions and appointments, and they had veto rights, separately or jointly, in respect of certain types of legislation, including foreign affairs. Human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as the supremacy of the constitution, were guaranteed.

The application of the provisions of the constitution encountered difficulties almost from the birth of the republic and led to a succession of constitutional crises and to accumulating tension between the leaders of the two communities.

On 30 November 1963, the President of the Republic, Archbishop Makarios, publicly set forth 13 points on which he considered that the constitution should be amended. He did so on the stated grounds that the existing constitution created many difficulties in the smooth functioning of the state and the development and progress of the country, that its many sui generis provisions conflicted with internationally accepted democratic principles and created sources of friction between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, and that its effects were causing the two communities to draw further apart rather than closer together.

The president's proposals would have, among other things, abolished the veto power of the president and the vice-president, while having the latter deputize for the president in his absence. The Greek Cypriot president of the House of Representatives and the Turkish Cypriot vice-president would have been elected by the house as a whole and not, as under the constitution, separately by its Greek and Turkish members. The constitutional provisions regarding separate majorities for enactment of certain laws by the House of Representatives would have been abolished, unified municipalities established and the administration of justice and the security forces unified. The proportion of Turkish Cypriots in the public service and the military forces would have been reduced, and the Greek Cypriot Communal Chamber abolished, though the Turkish community would have been able to retain its chamber.

No immediate response was forthcoming from the vice-president to this proposed programme, but the Turkish government, to which the president's proposals had been communicated "for information purposes", rejected them promptly and categorically. Subsequently, the Turkish Cypriot Communal Chamber described the president's claim that the constitution had proved an obstacle to the smooth functioning of the republic as false propaganda and contended that the Greek Cypriots had never attempted to implement the constitution in good faith. The Turkish Cypriots maintained that the structure of the republic rested on the existence of two communities and not of a majority and a minority. They refused to consider the amendments proposed by the other side, which were in their opinion designed to weaken those parts, which recognized the existence of the Turkish Cypriot community as such.

Whatever possibility might have existed at the time for calm and rational discussion of the president's proposals between the two communities disappeared indefinitely with the outbreak of violent disturbances between them a few days later, on 21 December 1963.

In the afternoon of 24 December 1963, the Turkish national contingent, stationed in Cyprus under the Treaty of Alliance and numbering 650 officers and other ranks, left its camp and took up positions at the northern outskirts of Nicosia in the area where disturbances were taking place. On 25 December, the Cyprus government charged that Turkish warplanes had flown at tree-level over Cyprus, and during the next several days there were persistent reports of military concentrations along the southern coast of Turkey and of Turkish naval movements off that coast.

Mission of the Personal Representative

In the face of the outbreak of intercommunal strife, the governments of the United Kingdom, Greece and Turkey, on 24 December 1963 offered their joint good offices to the government of Cyprus. On 25 December they informed that government, including both the Greek and Turkish elements, of their readiness to assist, if invited to do so, in restoring peace and order by means of a joint peacemaking force under British command, composed of forces of the three governments already stationed in Cyprus under the Treaties of Alliance and Establishment. This offer having been accepted by the Cyprus government, the joint force was established on 26 December, a ceasefire was arranged on 29 December, and on 30 December it was agreed to create a neutral zone along the ceasefire line ("green line") between the areas occupied by the two communities in Nicosia. That zone was to be patrolled by the joint peacemaking force, but in practice the task was carried out almost exclusively by its British contingent. It was further agreed that a conference of representatives of the governments of the United Kingdom, Greece and Turkey and of the two communities of Cyprus would be convened in London in January 1964. These arrangements were reported to the Security Council in a letter dated 8 January from the Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the United Nations.

Meanwhile, on 26 December 1963, the Permanent Representative of Cyprus requested an urgent meeting of the Security Council to consider his government's complaint against Turkey. The meeting was held on 27 December. The Secretary-General met with the Permanent Representative of Cyprus to explore the best way in which the United Nations could assist in restoring quiet in the country. The representative of Cyprus, as well as the representatives of Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom, requested the Secretary-General to appoint a personal representative to observe the peacemaking operation in Cyprus.

After consultations, during which agreement was reached with all concerned regarding the functions of the representative, the Secretary-General, on 17 January 1964, appointed Lieutenant-General P S Gyani (India) as his personal representative and observer, to go to Cyprus initially until the end of February. The Secretary-General stated that his function would be to observe the progress of the peacemaking operation. General Gyani was to report to the Secretary-General on how the United Nations observer could function and be most effective in fulfilling the task as outlined in the request made by the government of Cyprus and agreed to by the governments of Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom. General Gyani's mandate was later extended until the end of March.

The London Conference, which met on 15 January 1964, failed to reach agreement, and proposals to strengthen the international peacemaking force were rejected by the government of Cyprus, which insisted that any such force be placed under the control of the United Nations. From Nicosia, General Gyani reported a rapid and grave deterioration of the situation, involving scattered intercommunal fighting with heavy casualties, kidnappings and the taking of hostages (many of whom were killed), unbridled activities by irregular forces, separation of the members of the two communities, and disintegration of the machinery of government, as well as fears of military intervention by Turkey or Greece. The British peacemaking force was encountering increasing difficulties. While Gyani's presence had been helpful in a number of instances, attention was turning increasingly to the possibility of establishing a United Nations peacekeeping operation.