UNFICYP honours Australia’s long and distinguished service in Cyprus

16 Jun 2017

UNFICYP honours Australia’s long and distinguished service in Cyprus

NICOSIA, 16 June 2017 – On 26 may 1964, 40 intrepid Australian police officers joined UNFICYP, becoming pioneers of peacekeeping and the first of over 1,600 Australian police personnel to serve with UNFICYP over 53 years.

On Friday 16 June 2017, UNFICYP held a flag-lowering ceremony for Australia, paying tribute to the country for its dedication and commitment to furthering the cause of peace in Cyprus. The event was attended by, among others, the Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, Mr. Andrew Colvin, 
H.E. Mr. Alan Sweetman, Australia's High Commissioner to Cyprus, Ian Hardy and Ronald Cornish - two officers from the first and second Australian contingents to serve with UNFICYP respectively - and numerous other officers who have served with the mission over the years.

Senior UNFICYP officials were also in attendance, including the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) in Cyprus & Head of Mission, Ms. Elizabeth Spehar, UNFICYP Force Commander, Major General Mohammad Humayun Kabir, Senior Police Advisor, Col. Andrii Sachavo, and Mr. Joel Cohen, Chief of Mission Support, among others.

“Australia’s important role in this mission, and the collegiality and professionalism of its police officers, will be sorely missed. At the same time, UNFICYP wishes Australia’s police force continued success as the country focuses its police resources on other challenges and opportunities, both domestically and as a key component of the country’s peacekeeping, stabilisation and capacity-building efforts in its own region,” SRSG Spehar said. “We are also encouraged by the commitment of Australia to offer its assistance to the parties for the development of a future federal police force of a united Cyprus. Yours is a successful model from which Cyprus could surely benefit significantly.”

“Australia has also led by example with respect to one of the mission’s key objectives, and that is to ensure that women are strongly represented among our peacekeepers,” she added. “In fact, when the 28th Australian police contingent landed in Cyprus in 1988, Sgt Kathy Burdett was among them, becoming the first female officer to serve with UNPOL in Cyprus. Today, women make up 18 percent of UNFICYP’s police component, a number we are continuously trying to improve upon as we work towards gender parity in our mission.”

When it was established in 1964, UNFICYP was the first mission to have a civilian police force deployed to provide peacekeeping support. Since then, 111 Australian contingents have served in Cyprus.

“Being Australia's last Contingent Commander to Cyprus is without question the highlight of my career. I feel honoured and humbled, given Australia’s long relationship with Cyprus and the United Nations and knowing how special this Mission has been to many of my Australian colleagues who served before me,” says Australian Contingent Commander, Inspector Bronwyn Carter.
Three Australian police officers lost their lives while serving with UNFICYP – Sergeant Llewllyn Thomas from South Australia Police, and Inspector Mark Hackett and Sergeant Ian Ward from the NSW Police Force.  A commemorative service was held in their honour on 15 June 2017.

The Australian Federal Police’s role within UNFICYP has been diverse, and has included work in the UN buffer zone to maintain peace and stability, delivering humanitarian assistance and performing an important liaison role between law enforcement authorities from the north and south.

UNFICYP congratulates and thanks Australia for its honourable service under the UN flag in the cause of peace in Cyprus.