Supervision of the cease-fire

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. 

UNFICYP's operating procedures to prevent a recurrence of fighting and to supervise the ceasefire were worked out pragmatically in the light of the impasse that persisted between the two sides. The force instituted a system of fixed posts and frequent patrols, intervention on the spot and interposition to prevent incidents from escalating into serious fighting, demarcation of ceasefire lines where appropriate, and the submission of proposals or plans for remedying situations of military tension or conflict. Thus, UNFICYP endeavoured to secure the withdrawal or elimination of fortifications erected by the two sides, and submitted numerous proposals to that end, designed to reduce the armed confrontation without prejudice to the security requirements of both sides. Wherever violent incidents broke out, UNFICYP made every effort, by persuasion, negotiation and interposition, to stop the fighting; it assisted civilians, evacuated the wounded and endeavoured to resolve the underlying security and other problems.

Despite UNFICYP's efforts, sporadic violence continued on the island after the force became operational, punctuated by outbreaks of severe fighting in which United Nations troops would find themselves at times fired upon by both sides, and forced to return the fire. Serious incidents occurred in the Tylliria area on 4 April 1964, at Ayios Theodhoros on 22 April, and in the area north of Nicosia from 25 to 29 April. A number of UNFICYP soldiers were killed as they sought to carry out their duties during continued scattered fighting in May. A major outbreak of fighting occurred from 5 to 8 August in the Tylliria area, reducing the Turkish Cypriot bridgehead there to the village of Kokkina. This was followed by aerial attacks on government forces by Turkish fighter aircraft, and led on 8 and 9 August to meetings of the Security Council, which adopted resolution 193 (1964), which, inter alia, called for an immediate ceasefire. The governments of Cyprus and Turkey accepted the ceasefire without conditions.

In August and September 1964, the Secretary-General engaged in intensive negotiations with the parties on the explosive issue of the periodic partial rotation of the Turkish national contingent stationed in Cyprus under the Treaty of Alliance (which the Cyprus government had abrogated, but which Turkey considered to remain valid). This was linked to the question of the reopening of the Nicosia-Kyrenia road, which the Turkish Cypriots had closed to Greek Cypriot traffic. On 25 September, U Thant announced in the Security Council that agreement had been reached for the reopening of the road under the exclusive control of UNFICYP, and for the unimpeded rotation of the Turkish national contingent.

The road was reopened on 26 October 1964, and UNFICYP continued until 1974 to supervise the movement of Greek Cypriot civilians on it and to ensure that no armed personnel except those of UNFICYP were allowed to use it. The first rotation of the Turkish national contingent under this agreement was carried out on the same day, with UNFICYP assistance and under UNFICYP observation. UNFICYP also performed observation functions in connection with checking the incoming Turkish troops and their stores by Cyprus government officials at Famagusta harbour. These functions, too, continued to be carried out, twice a year, until 1974. It should be noted that the UNFICYP functions relating to the Turkish national contingent concerned relations between the governments of Cyprus and Turkey and therefore did not fall strictly within the terms of UNFICYP's mandate; they were assumed at the request of all concerned, in the interest of maintaining the peace, reducing tension on the island, and creating favourable conditions for carrying out other aspects of UNFICYP's mandate.

As a result of this arrangement, the situation in Cyprus improved somewhat, and in his report of December 1964, the Secretary-General reported that fighting had virtually ceased. However, the underlying tensions continued, and UNFICYP had little or no success in inducing the parties to scale down their military confrontation or dismantle their fortifications, which were the cause of recurrent incidents.

Return to normal conditions

UNFICYP normalization efforts evolved on an ad hoc basis and employed persuasion and negotiation exclusively. The principal objective was to restore conditions that would enable all the people of the island to go about their daily business without fear for their lives and without being victimized, and in this connection to restore governmental services and economic activities disrupted by the intercommunal strife. A significant aspect of UNFICYP's procedures under this heading concerned humanitarian and relief assistance. All of UNFICYP's efforts were so framed as to avoid prejudicing the positions and claims of the parties in respect of a final political settlement. However, its task was made difficult by the reluctance of the two communities to modify their positions in the absence of such a settlement.

From the beginning of the United Nations operation, UNFICYP undertook ad hoc measures designed to save lives, minimize suffering and, to the extent possible, restore essential civilian activities. These measures included:

Escorts for essential civilian movements, including people, food and essential merchandise, on the roads of Cyprus, especially for members of the Turkish Cypriot community who feared abduction.
Harvest arrangements, including escorts and patrols, to enable farmers to till their lands in the vicinity of positions held by members of the other community; agricultural arrangements, including grain deliveries by the Turkish Cypriots to the Cyprus Grain Commission; maintenance of abandoned citrus orchards, etc.
Arrangements for government property in Turkish Cypriot-controlled areas; water and electricity supplies to the Turkish Cypriot sectors; postal services; payment of social insurance benefits; efforts to normalize the public services, including arrangements to re-employ Turkish Cypriot civil servants, etc.
Cooperation with the Red Cross and the Cyprus Joint Relief Commission in providing relief assistance for displaced persons (mainly Turkish Cypriots). UNFICYP also made intensive efforts to alleviate hardships resulting from the economic restrictions that had been imposed on the Turkish Cypriot community.

In October and November 1964, UNFICYP initiated a major effort to persuade the government and the Turkish Cypriot leadership to drop most economic and security restrictions directed at members of the other community, to restore free movement and contacts for all, and to consider the return of displaced persons, with UNFICYP's assistance. This comprehensive approach resulted in some improvement of the situation, but the basic political problem continued to limit the effectiveness of UNFICYP's normalization efforts.

On 21 April 1965, President Makarios informed the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and the Force Commander that the government planned a normalization programme in three districts - Larnaca, Limassol and Ktima. This move came in response to UNFICYP's suggestions for a withdrawal of troops from fortified posts, elimination of road-blocks and the lifting of economic restrictions. However, the Turkish Cypriots, noting the limited geographical scope of the programme and the continuation of economic restrictions, declined to remove their defenses.