Research Report

Posted 4 September 2008
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Special Research Report No. 3: Cyprus: New Hope after 45 Years on the Security Council Agenda

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IntroductionRecent DevelopmentsHistorical BackgroundPeace ProcessGeneral Assembly InvolvementEvolution of UNFICYP’s Mandate and ActivitiesCouncil and Wider Dynamics Selected UN DocumentsOther Relevant FactsUseful Additional Sources Other SCR Publications on Cyprus

1. Introduction
This Special Research Report attempts to provide for Council members, and other interested parties, a short history of the 45 years of Council involvement in the Cyprus issue. There now seems to be a sense of optimism and hope that the parties, with assistance from the UN and the Council, can at last reach a sustainable solution.

On 25 July, Greek Cypriot leader Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat agreed to resume full-fledged negotiations aimed at finding a solution to the Cyprus problem, and to put the agreed solution to separate simultaneous referendums. The negotiations began as scheduled on 3 September.

This report focuses on Security Council involvement over the past 45 years. It also touches on developments in the General Assembly and successive UN-led peace talks. It does not aim to be comprehensive. Rather it is designed to explain the evolution of the UN and Security Council involvement.

The next scheduled Council action on Cyprus is not until December, when the mandate of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) is due for renewal. However, as the negotiating process unfolds it may be that Council input will be based on actual developments rather than predetermined mandate schedules.


2. Recent Developments
After the failure in 2004 of the comprehensive peace plan for the reunification of the island proposed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, following its rejection in a referendum by the Greek Cypriots, there was a long delay in attempting to restart negotiations between the two sides. The Secretary-General said that he would only resume his good offices when the two sides showed renewed commitment to reaching a comprehensive settlement.

Between 2006 and 2007, efforts focused on encouraging the parties to discuss each contentious issue and confidence-building measures at a technical level before resuming full-fledged negotiations. But this approach did not produce much progress—in part because of the prevailing political uncertainty on the island in the lead up to Greek Cypriot elections.

The election on 24 February 2008 of a new President of the Republic of Cyprus, Demetris Christofias, with a mandate for the resumption of negotiations to reunify Cyprus, opened a window for a reinvigorated approach to resolving the split which has divided the Turkish Cypriot north and the Greek Cypriot south since 1974.

In his 3 December 2007 report on UNFICYP (S/2007/699), the Secretary-General noted that no progress had been made in the previous six months towards establishing a framework for a political process allowing the resumption of negotiations. He said that the lack of political will had been the main problem, and he encouraged the parties to show more flexibility. In resolution 1789 of 14 December, the Council welcomed the Secretary-General’s analysis of the situation, reaffirmed that the status quo was unacceptable, and agreed to renew UNFICYP until 15 June 2008.

Upon his election, President Christofias agreed immediately to meet the head of the Turkish Cypriot community Mehmet Ali Talat to revive reunification efforts. They met on 21 March in Nicosia, under the auspices of the UN. They agreed to start full-fledged negotiations under the auspices of the Secretary-General and, for that purpose, established a number of working groups and technical committees and significantly also decided to reopen Ledra Street—the main crossing point between the north and the south on the ceasefire line called the Green Line—as a confidence building measure. Ledra Street opened on 3 April after being closed for more than 44 years.

UN Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe visited Cyprus from 31 March to 2 April, followed by a trip to Greece and Turkey, to determine prospects for the Secretary-General’s good offices. He noted a “palpable sense of momentum”.

Briefing the Security Council on 15 April, Pascoe expressed his optimism about the upcoming negotiations, noting, however, that they would not be easy. He added that the Secretary-General would consider appointing a special adviser to facilitate negotiations if the working groups and technical committees were making progress. In a presidential statement (S/PRST/2008/9) the Council warmly welcomed the recent developments, reaffirmed its commitment to the reunification of Cyprus based on a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation and political equality, called for more confidence building measures and welcomed prospects for the appointment of a special advisor.

Working groups on governance and power-sharing, EU matters, security guarantees, territory, property and economic matters, as well as technical committees on criminal matters, economic and commercial matters, cultural heritage, crisis management, humanitarian matters, health and environment were established on 18 April. This was another significant development. A previous agreement between the leaders of 8 July 2006 had provided for the establishment of such groups and committees, but the parties had been unable to agree on operationalising these bodies until 2008.

The two leaders met again on 23 May 2008 and reaffirmed their commitment to a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation with political equality and a federal government with a Turkish Cypriot constituent state and a Greek Cypriot constituent state, of equal status. Civilian and military confidence-building measures were agreed upon as well as the opening of other crossing points.

The leaders met again on 1 July and on 25 July to review progress made by the working groups and decided to start full-fledged negotiations on 3 September, under the good offices mission of the Secretary-General. They also approved 16 measures proposed by the technical committees in the areas of environment, cultural heritage, crisis management and criminal matters. They also agreed on the issues of single sovereignty for the Cyprus state and single citizenship but with details to be discussed during the negotiations.

On 11 July the Secretary-General appointed former Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer as his new Special Adviser on Cyprus. In resolution 1818 of 13 June renewing the mandate of UNFICYP, the Council had welcomed the Secretary-General’s intention to do so.

On 3 September 2008, the “fully-fledged” negotiations were launched in Cyprus. This was welcomed by the Security Council in a presidential statement (S/PRST/2008/34) which also confirmed the Council’s readiness to support the process and welcomed the appointment of Alexander Downer as the Secretary-General’s Special Advisor.


3. Historical Background
The question of Cyprus has been on the Security Council agenda since 27 December 1963. At that time Cyprus raised a complaint against Turkey (S/5488). This led to the establishment of UNFICYP on 4 March 1964.

Cyprus is therefore one of the oldest conflicts on the agenda of the Council and has led to the adoption of 126 Council resolutions. However, contrary to a majority of other conflicts on the agenda of the Council, violence has been almost nonexistent since 1974, although

Unlike a number of other issues on the Council’s agenda, the UN has always had a central role in efforts to bring about a peaceful settlement. The Secretary-General’s good offices mission was launched in 1965. Despite many attempts at mediation and the progressive definition by the Council of a framework for the peace process, a political settlement between Greek and Turkish Cypriots remained elusive and the island remained divided.

Cyprus is at a very strategic location, at the crossroads between southeast Europe, the Balkans, the Middle East, and North Africa. Its neighbouring countries include Turkey to the north, Syria and Lebanon to the east, Israel to the southeast, Egypt to the south, and Greece to the northwest. Cyprus was therefore often a focus of interest for various empires wanting to extend their spheres of influence. In 1571 Cyprus, at that time under the rule of the Republic of Venice, was conquered by the Ottoman Empire. It remained under Turkish rule for three centuries.

The ethnic origin and composition of the island have been controversial, especially in modern times. Greek Cypriots claim that the island had always been ethnically and culturally Greek and part of the Hellenic world. Turkish Cypriots claim a share of its history. Ottoman rule brought an influx of settlers leading to the emergence of a distinct Turkish Cypriot identity. Up until the end of the nineteenth century, there were only rough estimates of Cyprus’ population and ethnic breakdown. But by the time of the first census of the island in 1881, the population numbered 186,000, with the Turkish Cypriots representing about 23 percent.[1]

In 1878, after Russia defeated the Ottomans in the Russian-Turkish war, the UK reached an agreement with the Ottomans to lease Cyprus and became effectively the administering authority on the island. In the 19th century, the UK had been concerned with the expansion of Russia’s sphere of influence in the eastern Mediterranean and the weakening of the Ottoman Empire toward the end of the century led to British efforts to limit Russian influence in the region. Cyprus therefore assumed a significant strategic importance for the UK.

In the twentieth century, the British began to look towards new options for Cyprus. In 1912 the UK, a strong supporter of the Greek state, which achieved independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1832, offered enosis—or union of Cyprus with Greece—in exchange for a British military base in Greece (in Cephallonia or Argostoli). In 1915 enosis was again offered in return for Greek cooperation in the First World War. In both cases Greece turned down the offer.

After its defeat in the First World War, Turkey relinquished its residual sovereignty with respect to Cyprus and the island formally became a British colony in 1925, a status which continued through 1960. However, in the period after the Second World War, opposition to colonial status strengthened—as in many other colonised countries at that time.

In Cyprus, demands by Greek Cypriots for independence were associated with demands for enosis. The roots of the enosis movement can arguably be traced back to the Greek War of Independence from the Ottoman Empire of 1821-1829. Although the enosis movement was muted until the 1950s, Greek Cypriots always had a strong sense of identification with Greece—in large part because of the historical factors including influence of the Greek Christian Orthodox Church in Cyprus. Expectations in Greece and Cyprus were heightened during the Greco-Turkish War of 1897 and subsequent de facto incorporation of Crete—which was still part of the Ottoman Empire at that time—into Greece in 1913.

In the 1950s, pressure for enosis re-emerged more strongly. In 1950, the Archbishop of Cyprus, Makarios III, arranged for a plebiscite among Greek Cypriots which revealed that 92 percent favoured enosis. He then pledged to work toward the achievement of this goal. In 1955 the National Organisation of Cypriot Fighters (EOKA) was founded, seeking an armed struggle for independence and union. EOKA’s leader was a Cyprus-born general in the Greek Army called George Grivas. In 1958 the Turkish Resistance Organisation (TMT) was established by Turkish Cypriots as a counterweight. It called for partition, or taksim. Each side was militarily supplied by Greece and Turkey respectively.

This armed resistance was opposed by the British who also hesitated about self-determination, fearing it would have meant enosis and outbreaks of violence on a massive scale. It seems that the UK also worried that chaos in Cyprus would play into the hands of the communist movement in Greece. From 1944 to 1949, the Greek civil war was raging between government forces supported by the UK and later also by the US and the military branch of the Greek communist party.

The Greek government eventually overcame the communist rebellion and subsequently became a NATO member. However, Britain’s continuing refusal to move on the question of Cyprus led to increased Greek frustration. But by now the UK’s position was complicated also by the need to maintain good relations with another fellow NATO member, Turkey, and Turkey was becoming increasingly concerned about the interest and safety of the Turkish minority in Cyprus in the event of enosis. On the other hand, self-determination for both communities (which would have meant partition) was rejected by the Greek Cypriot leader Makarios.

In 1959, wider internationalisation of the problem emerged. Greece began pressing for a General Assembly ruling on Cyprus’ independence. Humanitarian concerns were also growing in light of the increasing number of deaths on the island as a result of violence among communities.

On 19 February 1959, an agreement on independence for Cyprus was reached in Zürich and London between Turkey, Greece, the UK and the Cypriot communities (under the leadership of Makarios for the Greek Cypriots and Fazyl Küçük for the Turkish Cypriots). A constitution was drafted. Cyprus was proclaimed an independent state on 16 August 1960. It became a UN member on 20 September. EOKA and TMT activities stopped. The structure of legislative, judicial and executive powers was designed to reflect the bi-communal nature of the Cypriot population. For instance, for any bill to become a law, a separate majority of representatives of both communities was required. The government, civil service and the judiciary were to be composed of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots in a 70 to 30 ratio, and a 60 to 40 ratio for participation in the National Guard—the combined armed military force of the Republic of Cyprus. It was estimated at that time that Greek Cypriots composed 80 percent of the Cyprus population, and the Turkish Cypriots about 18 percent. The independence agreement represented a compromise between the Greek Cypriots’ demand for union with Greece and the Turkish Cypriots’ counter-demand for partition. Neither community was satisfied by this result. Most Greek Cypriots considered that the constitution was unfair (as they constituted the population majority). The bi-communal approach in the constitution rather than safeguarding the interests and harmonising the co-existence of the two groups seemed to accentuate communal differences.

The London-Zürich agreement was supplemented by three treaties signed in 1960. First, a treaty of establishment was signed between Cyprus and the UK, providing for the transfer of sovereignty to Cyprus—excluding about 256 square kilometres of British military bases, which became the Dhekelia “Sovereign Base Area”, and the Akrotiri “Sovereign Base Area.” Second was the treaty of guarantee between the UK, Greece and Turkey on one hand and Cyprus on the other hand, designed to preserve the independence, territorial integrity, security and constitutional structure of the Republic of Cyprus. The guarantor powers promised not to seek annexation or partition of Cyprus. Article IV of the treaty gave the parties the right to act “with the sole aim of re-establishing the state of affairs created by the present treaty” in case of breach of a provision. Finally, a treaty of alliance between Cyprus, Greece and Turkey stated that the three states would cooperate and consult to protect the territorial integrity of Cyprus through the creation of a tripartite headquarters and by stationing a 950-man strong Greek and 650-man strong Turkish contingents on the island.

Despite the international agreements, tensions and mutual suspicions continued. Inter-communal differences on several issues intensified, including on bi-communal participation in the civil service and the question of separate municipalities. In November 1963 President Makarios attempted to amend the constitution, in his view to eliminate impediments to the effective functioning of the government. This was strongly rejected by Turkish Cypriot leaders and by Turkey who perceived it as an attempt to increase the relative level of Greek Cypriot power in a manner inconsistent with the 1960 compromise. His proposal included 13 amendments including abandoning the veto power of both the president and the vice president.

The deadlock sparked a wave of inter-communal violence and withdrawal by Turkish Cypriots from government and state positions. The Greek Cypriots saw the Turkish Cypriots’ withdrawal as the first step to forming their own administration. By contrast, the Turkish Cypriots maintained that they were forced out. (This has remained a highly controversial historical issue.) The small British military contingent in Cyprus was able to contain only a small portion of the violence.

On 25 December Turkey intervened militarily (sending aircraft and troops to Cyprus) in support of the Turkish Cypriots, which resulted in a confrontation between units of Greek and Turkish armies on Cypriot soil. (The Council took up the issue after a complaint by Cyprus–S/5488–but did not take action at this stage.) Amid fears of a Greco-Turkish war on the issue of Cyprus, western powers pushed for a diplomatic solution to the crisis. President Makarios insisted that the UN was the only organisation whose intervention he would accept.

On 4 March 1964 the Council adopted resolution 186 calling on member states to refrain from any action likely to worsen the situation in Cyprus. The resolution also decided on the creation of a peacekeeping force and the appointment of a mediator. UNFICYP was deployed the same month.

Despite these developments, severe inter-communal fighting erupted in March and April 1964. Both Greece and Turkey lent their support to each community. The Greek government sent a military division to Cyprus, and in August Turkey bombed the Tylliria area.

The total reported number of casualties over the period 21 December 1963 to 9 August 1964 varies and is disputed, but a possible figure is about 193 Turkish Cypriots and 133 Greek Cypriots killed, with many missing. During this period, between 20,000 and 25,000 Turkish Cypriots were forced to flee to enclaves.

Another significant development in 1964 was the withdrawal of Turkish Cypriots from the national guards, which subsequently became a solely Greek Cypriot army, with General Grivas as commander.

Inter-communal fighting resumed in November 1967, sparked by the fact that in Greece, a military junta had overthrown the civilian government in April 1967. The Greek military dictatorship put pressure on the Greek Cypriot leader Makarios for enosis. In Cyprus this demand was echoed by General Grivas. Makarios resisted Greek pressure—perhaps concerned about the implications of Cyprus coming under a military dictatorship. General Grivas’ armed units began incursions into Turkish Cypriot enclaves. Heavy fighting with Turkish Cypriots killed many. Again, a Turkish military response followed. Turkish aircraft bombed Greek Cypriot forces and a full military intervention seemed possible. However, following international pressure and a Turkish ultimatum, Greece recalled General Grivas and reduced its forces on the island.

In July 1974, the Greek military regime backed a coup d’état in Cyprus by Greek officers’ members of the Cyprus National Guard, led by Nikos Sampson, with a view to achieving enosis. Turkey responded on 20 July by landing Turkish troops in Cyprus to protect the Turkish Cypriots, arguing that in light of the developments it had the right to do so under the 1960 treaty of guarantee. UN troops did not have the mandate or the capacity to prevent the Turkish intervention and only played a limited role in preventing some fighting. On 23 July however, the military regime in Greece fell and was replaced by a civilian administration.

On 30 July 1974, the foreign ministers of the UK, Greece and Turkey met in Geneva to discuss the crisis in Cyprus and issued a declaration S/11398

On 16 August 1974, Turkish forces declared a ceasefire. They had secured 37 percent of the island. In the absence of successful talks between the parties leading to a comprehensive settlement some 35,000 Turkish troops remained in the north. Today the exact number of Turkish troops stationed in the north of Cyprus is controversial but is believed to be between 25,000 (according to UN estimates) and 47,000 (according to Greek Cypriot estimates).

The 1974 crisis had the following consequences.

  • The birth of a refugee problem: about 165,000 Greek Cypriots were displaced from north to south and about 45,000 Turkish Cypriots in the south were displaced to the north. Their homes and land left behind have become a source of ongoing controversy.
  • The de facto separation of the island: UNFICYP established the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot ceasefire lines and became responsible for patrolling the buffer zone between them. The ceasefire lines separating the two communities are referred to as the Green Line. The divide of the island through the capital Nicosia has impeded the return of the displaced over the years. (In 2003 the easing of crossing procedures allowed many to view their properties on the other side of the island for the first time in many years—to date, around 15 million crossings have been recorded.)

On 15 November 1983 Turkish Cypriots unilaterally declared their independence and established the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (TRNC). (This was declared legally invalid by the Security Council in resolution 541 of 18 November 1983.) It received diplomatic recognition only from Turkey, on which it depends for economic, political and military support. Most UN members continue to recognise the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus over the whole island. Lack of recognition led to isolation and relative economic stagnation in the north.

The Cyprus issue took on new dimensions in 1997, when the EU agreed that Cyprus would be included in the next round of EU enlargement. Initially some observers thought that this could create a new catalyst for a settlement, encouraging each side to negotiate. Others believed that this would remove Greek Cypriots’ incentives to reach a settlement, preferring to join the EU without the northern part of the island and, once an EU member to try to impose a settlement on their own terms.

In 2004, Greek Cypriots rejected a UN plan providing for the reunification of the island and subsequently joined the EU.

Another new factor, which emerged in 1999, was the acceptance by the EU of Turkey’s candidacy for EU membership. The Turkish government has refused to officially recognise the Republic of Cyprus until the removal of the political and economic blockade on the “TRNC”. This has led to complications within the customs union agreement that Turkey signed with the EU in 1995. Under this agreement Turkey is obliged to open its airports and ports to EU, including Cypriot, aircraft and vessels, but Turkey said that it would do so only after the EU opens up direct trade with Turkish Cypriots. Cyprus, backed by Greece (also an EU member) has threatened to veto steps leading to accession unless Turkey complies with the customs agreement.


4. Peace Process
Over the years the parameters established by the UN for a settlement of the Cyprus problem have evolved progressively and are now based on support for the reunification of Cyprus as an independent, sovereign, bi-communal, bi-zonal federation with both sides having equal political rights. Union with another country or partition would be excluded. Related issues such as demilitarisation, territorial adjustments, the status and property of displaced persons, freedom of movement, settlement and right to property are all recognised as matters which need to be addressed.

Successive Secretary-Generals, sometimes at the request of the Council, sometimes at the demand of the parties, and at other times at their own initiative, have been strongly involved in the peace process through the vehicle of the Secretary-General’s good offices function which was launched in 1965.

In 1964, the question of finding an appropriate forum for resolving the Cyprus conflict reflected the dynamics at play among the main powers. The US originally advocated a NATO solution. As seen above, Makarios rejected this out of fear that this would undermine Cyprus’ independence—although both Greece and Turkey had originally consented to a NATO intervention. Subsequently, Makarios took the issue directly to the UN, believing that the UN context would be more balanced.

The Cypriot government had already appealed to the Council in December 1963, but this did not trigger formal Council involvement, as most of international efforts at that time centered on solutions outside the UN. But Cypriot rejection of NATO mediation, the failure of US and UK mediation efforts and the recurrence of fighting finally led the UK, followed by the Cypriot government, to move the issue to the Council on 15 February 1964. The Council started discussing the issue on 18 February.

The first Council action on Cyprus was resolution 186 of 1964 which established UNFICYP and called for the appointment of a mediator. Galo Plaza (of Ecuador), who was the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Cyprus, in a report (S/6253 of 26 March 1965) said that any settlement of the problem must take into account the following considerations:

1. there should be no return to the pre-1963 conditions;

2. an “agreed settlement” must secure the support of all interested parties, namely the Cypriot government, Greece, Turkey, the UK and the representatives of the Cypriot communities;

3. the settlement must be consistent with the provisions of the UN Charter, in particular respect for the principles of equal rights, self-determination, human rights and fundamental freedoms, sovereign equality of member states, territorial integrity and political independence;

4. it must satisfy the wishes of the majority while providing adequate protection of the rights of all people;

5. enosis should be excluded from any settlement because it cannot obtain the agreement of all parties;

6. Cyprus should be demilitarised;

7. partition should also be excluded as an option;

8. federation should also be excluded as there is no territorial basis for two states and it would be a constant source of conflict;

9. there should be additional and exceptional protection for the rights of the Turkish Cypriots, and those wishing to resettle in Turkey should be assisted and compensated;

10. there should be autonomy for the Turkish Cypriots in religion, education and personal status;

11. the UN should be the guarantor of any agreed settlement in Cyprus; and

12. any settlement should be accepted or rejected in full, as any partial acceptance or rejection would disrupt the likely delicate balance of any such settlement.

The Galo report was not well received by the parties. The first attempt at mediation revealed how distant the two positions were.

  • The Greek Cypriots’ position was to reject the 1959 London-Zürich agreement and the constitution which they said had been imposed on them. Completely new foundations for the Cyprus state should be laid. The constitutional order should be one of majority/minority rule with the Turkish Cypriots accepting their minority status. The Cypriot state would be unitary, integral and sovereign. Also, any settlement would have to be founded on unrestricted independence (free from the treaties of alliance and guarantees). Greek Cypriots also rejected the recommendation from the Special Representative of the Secretary-General that enosis should not be an option. The status quo seemed to appeal to Greek Cypriots at that time. The 1964 conflict had led to a Greek Cypriot takeover of the state apparatus, which remained the only internationally recognised entity. It seems that a majority of Greek Cypriots considered enosis as the ultimate goal, hence the reluctance to close doors on this.
  • The Turkish Cypriots on the other hand maintained that they were not a minority but a community in their own right. They did not object to the 1960 constitution but to the way it had been implemented by Greek Cypriots. They wanted additional guarantees, in particular the geographical separation of the two communities coexisting in a federal state. Union with another state or partition should be prohibited and the 1960 treaties maintained.

The mediation was subsequently abandoned, but Secretary-General U Thant decided to make his good offices available to the two sides. Although over the years there have been different degrees of UN involvement, the mission of good offices has never been abandoned. At times the mission was conducted by the Secretary-General himself, in particular when high level negotiations were taking place between the parties, and at other times the Secretary-General appointed a special adviser to act on his behalf. When the situation between the parties was not conducive, the task of facilitating contact between the two communities was generally conducted by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General.

In 1966 and again in 1968, there were attempts at inter-communal talks under UN auspices, but they produced no result.

The fighting in 1974 followed by the significant movement of populations changed the situation on the ground, as did the consequent Turkish military occupation and the subsequent de facto partition. Also, the arrival of Turkish settlers in northern Cyprus (some figures show that they exceeded 20,000 in 1977) started to change the demographic composition of the island and, over time, impacted the balance of power.

Turkish and Turkish Cypriot occupation of Greek Cypriot property in the north created new incentives for Greek Cypriots to reach an agreement in order to avoid a permanent partition—and the permanent loss of their property. On the other hand, Turkish Cypriots, now having military superiority with the presence of Turkish troops seemed to toughen their position, despite international condemnation of the Turkish occupation.

From 1974 to 1999 there were a series of failed UN initiatives. Usually the parties blamed each other for the failure. However, from these processes emerged a progressive recognition of a number of key principles which seemed to be necessary for a settlement.

4.1 Independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity, non-alignment and bi-communality

In April 1975, Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim launched a new initiative in Vienna. It led to the adoption by the two leaders of a four-point agreement on 12 February 1977 providing for an independent, non-aligned, bi-communal federal republic. Respective territorial jurisdiction would be determined by economic viability and land ownership. The central government would be given powers to ensure the unity of the state, and the issues of freedom of movement and settlement, property issues and other matters would be settled at a later stage through discussions.

Another ten-point initiative was agreed in May 1979, which reaffirmed the 1977 agreement and added provisions for the demilitarisation of the island, the recognition of the necessity to settle the status of Varosha (the most famous tourist destination in Cyprus before being occupied by the Turkish army in 1974 and closing it to anyone else except UN personnel) as well as all territorial and constitutional aspects, the promotion of confidence-building measures, the respect for human rights, and a commitment to refrain from destabilising activities and actions. However, the parties later disagreed on the status of Varosha and on the concept of bi-communality and the agreements were never implemented.

4.2 . Bi-zonality and political equality

Between 1982 and 1991, Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar made proposals to the leaders, including a Draft Framework Agreement in 1986 which envisaged the creation of an independent, non-aligned, bi-communal state in Cyprus, but was more detailed than the 1977 agreement in that it began to define the federal government’s powers. Another novelty was the concept of a “bi-zonal” state, acknowledging the geographical separation of the communities. However, the Greek Cypriots were unhappy because the initiative did not address the withdrawal of the Turkish forces or the repatriation of Turkish settlers, and they wanted guarantees that the freedom of movement, settlement and right to property would be respected.

In 1990 a major development was an initiative by the Secretary-General to provide a more elaborate definition of the concept of bi-zonality in his 8 March 1990 report to the Council. In it he also raised the concept of political equality. (The report was subsequently endorsed by the Council in resolution 716 of 11 October 1991.) It said:

“The political equality of the two communities in and the bi-communal nature of the federation need to be acknowledged. While political equality does not mean equal numerical participation in all federal government branches and administration, it should be reflected inter alia in various ways: in the requirement that the federal constitution of the State of Cyprus be approved or amended with the concurrence of both communities; in the effective participation of both communities in all organs and decisions of the federal Government in safeguards to ensure that the federal Government will not be empowered to adopt any measures against the interests of one community; and in the equality and identical powers and functions of the two federated States.” “The bi-zonality of the federation should be clearly brought out by the fact that each federated State will be administered by one community which will be firmly guaranteed a clear majority of the population and of the land ownership in its area.” (S/21183, Annex I)

4.3 . Bi-zonality and political equality revisited

In 1992, Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali introduced a new “Set of Ideas” for a draft settlement, further expanding the previous concepts and proposing a secular, bi-zonal, bi-communal federal republic composed of two politically equal states, to be submitted to both communities for referendum (S/23780). The plan defined the relationship between Greek and Turkish Cypriots as not one of majority and minority, but rather one of two communities in the state of Cyprus. The concept of political equality picked up the idea endorsed by the Council in resolution 716. Bi-zonality would be reflected in the fact that each state in the federation would exercise jurisdiction over a clear majority of the population and of land ownership in its area. The plan included a description of the powers and functions of the federal government, and provided for the demilitarisation of the island and the upholding of the treaty of guarantee and of alliance. The plan did not include measures on territorial adjustment or displaced persons. The Council endorsed the plan in resolution 750 of 10 April 1992. However, the 1992 talks were not successful.

4.4 . Confidence-building measures

In 1993 the Secretary-General, recognising that substantive negotiations were deadlocked, proposed to the parties on 24 May a package of confidence-building measures (S/26026) including the reopening of the Nicosia international airport (declared a UN protected area during the 1974 fighting), transferring Varosha to direct UN control, and promoting cooperation between the two sides in areas such as water management, education, sports, health, environment, electricity, as well as meetings of political leaders from the two sides and allowing the crossing of the green line by journalists. The Security Council endorsed the approach in resolution 839 of 11 June 1993, but the parties could not reach agreement on implementation of the confidence building measures.

Following the failure of the Boutros-Ghali proposals, EU-related developments began to complicate the situation and Cyprus had to wait until 1999 for a renewed initiative. In 1994 the EU confirmed that Cyprus would be included in the next round of enlargement. The subsequent imposition of restrictions on the export of goods from northern Cyprus into the EU by the European Court of Justice, and the threat of a Greek veto in 1994 and 1995 over the final implementation of Turkey’s customs union agreement with the EU (the threat was withdrawn when the EU agreed to establish a firm date for opening accession negotiations with the Republic of Cyprus, and Turkey joined the EU customs union in 1996) seems to have contributed to in the stalling of negotiations between Greek and Turkish Cypriots. An announcement in 1997 by the Greek Cypriots of their intention to buy Russian anti-aircraft missiles contributed to further delay.

4.5 . The Annan plan

The most intensive efforts to achieve a comprehensive solution were undertaken by Secretary-General Kofi Annan between 1999 and 2004. An incentive was perhaps the acceleration in 1998 of the EU accession negotiations for Cyprus. Many thought that this could give some new leverage to the process. However, others worried that the absence of a precondition for reunifying the island before joining the EU would result in practice in only half of the island becoming part of the EU, thereby leaving a permanent solution even more difficult to attain.

Direct bi-communal talks led to the presentation in early 2004 by Kofi Annan of a foundation agreement for the “Comprehensive Settlement of the Cyprus Problem.” It drew extensively from the 1992 “Set of Ideas” but was more detailed, with 182 pages of main articles and finalised laws, and 9,000 pages of draft laws and treaties. It proposed the creation of the United Cyprus Republic which would be an EU member. There would be a federal government with two constituent states. Most powers were allocated to the states, with the federal level government mainly responsible for foreign relations, monetary policy, federal finance, citizenship and immigration. Federal institutions would be based on the principle of effective political equality. This would be balanced by a significant territorial adjustment reducing the Turkish Cypriot zone from 37 percent to approximately 28.5 percent of the island. (Many Greek Cypriot displaced persons would be able to retrieve their property in the north as a result of those territorial readjustments.) A solution combining financial and land compensation was planned for the remaining Greek Cypriot displaced persons. Also, the plan provided for the disbandment of all Cypriot security forces and the progressive reduction of Greek and Turkish contingents in Cyprus down to the original 950 and 650 troops (respectively foreseen in the treaty of alliance) by 2018, with the objective of eventual complete demilitarisation. A UN peacekeeping force would monitor implementation of the agreement. The treaty of guarantee would remain in force.

The plan was submitted to two separate referenda on 24 April 2004. The Turkish Cypriots accepted it by a 65 percent majority. The Greek Cypriots rejected the plan by 74 percent. Some of the Greek Cypriot objections were:

  • the plan was not in line with the entire EU “acquis communautaire”—the total body of EU law—and therefore would have not appropriately provided for the freedom of movement, settlement and right to property;
  • the political equality system would have given the Turkish Cypriots a veto on any federal decision although they constitute a minority of the Cypriot population;
  • Greek Cypriots would be responsible for many aspects of the reconstruction when Turkey should be held responsible;
  • Turkish troops should not be allowed to stay on the island; and
  • the plan was not specific about the repatriation of Turkish settlers.

In a report to the Council on 28 May 2004 (S/2004/437), Kofi Annan characterised the result of the referenda as a “major setback”. He put an end to his good offices, pending willingness by the Greek Cypriots to resolve the situation.

Because the EU did not make it a precondition for Cyprus to be reunified, the Republic of Cyprus joined the EU in 2004, without the Turkish Cypriots.

4.6 . A “Bottom-Up” Approach

In 2006 then Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari went to the region to sound out the prospects for renewing the political process. A set of principles, known as the “8 July Agreement” resulted from this effort, including:

  • commitment to the unification of Cyprus based on a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation and political equality;
  • recognition of the fact that the status quo is unacceptable;
  • agreement to immediately begin a bi-communal discussion of day-to-day issues and concurrently of substantive issues; and
  • commitment to confidence building measures.

Since the Greek Cypriots had refused Annan’s “top down” approach of a detailed plan for the reunification of the island, the opposite approach was tried with the 8 July agreement. It was premised on the idea that the parties would start by discussing each contentious issue before resuming full-fledged negotiations. But in practice there was still not sufficient political will and flexibility to reengage. Disagreements over the issues to be addressed by the committees and working groups impeded implementation of the approach. The Annan plan loomed in the background. Greek Cypriots hoped to create a new basis for negotiations that did not involve the Annan plan. Turkish Cypriots (and Turkey) feared that this new process would put aside the fragile achievements of past rounds of negotiations and, particularly, the gains they had achieved in the Annan plan.

The 24 February 2008 presidential elections in Cyprus created a window of opportunity for breaking the deadlock. The new Greek Cypriot leader Demetris Christofias resumed contacts with the Turkish Cypriot leader and a series of meetings between the two leaders led to the creation of working groups on substantial issues and technical committee to prepare the ground for renewed negotiations, and to the implementation of confidence-building measures. They decided to renew full-fledged negotiations by 3 September, and the Secretary-General, therefore, appointed a special adviser for Cyprus with a mediation mandate. The negotiations began as scheduled on 3 September.


5. General Assembly Involvement
The General Assembly has also played a role in the Cyprus issue. Initially the question was brought to the Assembly by the Greek Cypriots in the hope that it could be used as an instrument to rally international support to their cause. For the purpose of this study, we analyse the Assembly’s role only insofar as it had an impact on discussions and dynamics within the Security Council.

In practice, the Assembly mostly reinforced Council decisions and called for their implementation—in particular regarding a framework for the political process and the Council’s demand for withdrawal of Turkish troops from the island—but it also set the stage more proactively on the issues of refugees and missing persons.

The first time the question of Cyprus was placed on the agenda of the Assembly was in 1954 when Greece seemed to conclude that one way to obtain concessions from the UK on the self-determination issue might be by internationalising the issue.

Violence on the island also provided a rationale for Cyprus being on the Assembly’s agenda during five consecutive sessions, from 1954 to 1959. The Assembly however failed to adopt a substantive resolution, due to strong resistance from the UK and the US. For instance, resolution 814 (IX) of 17 December 1954 only stated that the Assembly considered it inappropriate for the time being to adopt a resolution on the question of Cyprus. In resolution 1287 (XIII) of 5 December 1958 the Assembly expressed its confidence that continued efforts will be made by the parties to reach a peaceful, democratic and just solution. Greece eventually shifted its emphasis and worked towards the resolution of the Cyprus question through direct negotiations with Turkey which culminated in the London-Zürich agreement in 1959.

As we have seen above, the Security Council took up the Cyprus issue in 1964. But it did not take sides. It did not, for instance, take an official position on the 1959 constitutional arrangements despite their unravelling, nor did the Council address Turkey’s military action in late 1963 and 1964 or its right to intervene under the Treaty of Guarantee. The Greek Cypriots, disappointed at the even-handedness of the Council, decided to seek additional support within the Assembly. On 18 December 1965 the General Assembly adopted resolution 2077 (XX) calling upon states to respect the sovereignty, unity, independence and territorial integrity of Cyprus and to refrain from any foreign intervention or interference (a provision directed at Turkey). The resolution also noted that the Cypriot government was committed to ensuring minority rights (a provision directed at the Turkish Cypriots and referred to them as a “minority” as opposed to another community). The resolution was adopted but it was not a resounding success. The vote was 47 votes in favour, five against (US, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and Albania) and 54 abstentions.

In 1974, following the crisis at that time the Question of Cyprus was again placed on the Assembly’s agenda at the request of the Cypriot government, which was looking for a stronger condemnation of the Turkish invasion than in decisions of the Council. The Assembly, in its resolution 3212 (XXIX) of 1 November 1974:

  • called for the immediate withdrawal of foreign armed forces and the cessation of all foreign interference in its affairs;
  • called upon the parties to take urgent measures for the return of refugees; and
  • requested the Secretary-General to continue his good offices.

This approach was endorsed by the Council in resolution 365 of 13 December 1974.

The Question of Cyprus has remained on the Assembly’s agenda ever since, in effect involving a process parallel to that in the Council. From 1975 to 1979, the Assembly adopted annual resolutions on the political situation in Cyprus, demanding the implementation of General Assembly resolution 3212 and the resumption of negotiations between the parties under the UN auspices. But also, the Assembly asked the Secretary-General to report to it on the implementation of the resolutions. In resolution 32/15 of 9 November 1977 the Assembly recommended that the Council keep the question of Cyprus under constant review and promote the implementation of its resolutions. In 1978 it became more specific, recommending the Council adopt “all appropriate and practical measures under the Charter” for ensuring the implementation of resolutions on Cyprus, “within a time frame” (resolution 33/15 of 9 November 1978). Finally in 1983 the Assembly, although expressing support for the inter-communal talks and 1977-1979 agreements, considered the withdrawal of all occupation forces from the Republic of Cyprus as an essential basis for the solution of the problem (resolution 37/253 of 13 May 1983). It also specifically called for the respect of freedom of settlement and right to property, which was clearly supportive of the Greek Cypriots.

The Council by contrast tended more towards an even handed approach.

The momentum gradually diminished in the General Assembly which has not adopted any new resolution since 1983. Growing support for the Turkish Cypriot cause within the Assembly as well as within the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), to which Cyprus belonged until 2004, may be an explanation for the Assembly also beginning to prefer a more even handed approach. In 1975, Turkey had been the only country to cast a vote against the Cyprus resolution. There were only nine abstentions. By 1979, the count was five against (mainly NAM member states) and 35 abstentions.

From 1975 to 1982 the Assembly began a new focus involving a series of resolutions on the issue of missing persons. There was unanimous support for this approach. The Commission on Human Rights first dealt with this issue in resolution 4 (XXXI) of 13 February 1975 when it called for the intensification of efforts aimed at tracing and accounting for missing persons (1,493 Greek Cypriots and 502 Turkish Cypriots are officially registered as missing in Cyprus since fighting broke out between the two communities in the 1960s). On 16 December 1977, the Assembly requested the establishment of an investigatory body with the participation of the Red Cross (32/128). In December 1978 it urged the establishment of the body under the chairmanship of a representative of the Secretary-General. The Committee on Missing Persons was established in April 1981 by agreement between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities, under the auspices of the UN with the mandate to investigate the fate of the disappeared, exhume, identify and return the remains. The Committee however was unable to function until 2004 because of a lack of cooperation between the two communities.

The Security Council has tended to support the Assembly’s work on the issue of missing persons—mainly considering it as a confidence-building measure. From 1999 to 2004, Council resolutions welcomed regular reports from the Secretary-General calling on the parties to address the humanitarian situation of the missing persons urgently and with seriousness.

The Committee on missing persons resumed its work on 30 August 2004 after the Secretary-General called on the two parties to conclude the remaining investigative work on both sides on the basis of an agreed, comprehensive timetable. The parties subsequently agreed to cooperate, depoliticise the issue and exchange information regarding known burial sites and the return of remains. To date, the remains of 412 individuals have been exhumed on both sides of the buffer zone.


6. Security Council Involvement
Several observations can be made about the role of the Council regarding the Cyprus issue.

1. Before 1974, the Council’s main focus was to uphold the 1960 agreements and constitution. It remained even handed when addressing inter-communal violence, refraining from condemning one side or the other. In 1974, although the Council did not condone nor condemn Turkey’s intervention, it did demand the immediate end of foreign military intervention and the withdrawal of troops. It seems that dynamics at play within the Council reflected concerns for both the understandable reasons underlying Turkey’s intervention (the coup against Makarios undeniably violated the internationally guaranteed constitutional rights of the Turkish Cypriots) and for the need to support the principle of territorial integrity (in particular after one of the reasons for Turkey’s intervention was reversed following the fall of the Greek junta). However, as time went by, the principle of territorial integrity seemed to prevail. The Council in 1983 condemned the purported secession by the Turkish Cypriots.

2. The de facto separation of Cyprus also led the Council to progressively recognise that a solution to the Cyprus problem could only be reached by settlement between the two sides, and that, perhaps, the 1960 constitutional order needed to be revised—although partition was never seen as an option. The Council therefore undertook to support the peace process and, as a result, recognised bi-communality and bi-zonality as the cornerstones of a framework for agreement. More recently, the concept of political equality was also recognised and supported by the Council. The Council has also actively supported the Secretary-General’s mission of good offices and constantly called on the parties to implement their agreements.

3. Divisions within the Council as seen above prevented it from giving UNFICYP a strong Chapter VII mandate such as physical interposition during conflict between communities.

4. The Council has usually been reactive rather than proactive, generally responding to existing peace processes or initiatives either when launched by the parties themselves or by the Secretary-General.

5. Council resolutions (as well as General Assembly resolutions) addressing the Turkish invasion and subsequent unilateral “TRNC” declaration of independence were never implemented. But in 1980, when it was clear that the Turkish army was going to stay in Cyprus, the Council stopped referring to previous resolutions demanding the withdrawal of foreign troops. In 1992, the Council did endorse the “Set of Ideas,” which aimed at a total withdrawal of foreign troops from the island and later underlined in resolution 831 that the number of foreign troops in Cyprus needed to undergo a significant reduction and that the Republic of Cyprus reduce defence spending. The Council also never reiterated, after 1985, the demand that the Turkish Cypriots withdraw the proclamation of independence.

6.1. The Council responding to crises: upholding the independence agreements

When the Council first became involved with the question of Cyprus in 1963, the issue was already on the UN agenda—having been first raised by Greece in the General Assembly in 1954. The trigger for Council involvement was the intensifying of violence in 1963, which clearly raised an issue of a threat to international peace and security.

The first appeal to the Council, by the Cypriot government (which was already functioning without the participation of Turkish Cypriots) in December 1963 did not lead to any Council action, as the US and the UK were at that time contemplating a possible NATO rather than a UN role. The UK and the US were greatly concerned by the possible complete breakdown of the 1959 London-Zürich agreement and by the risk of Turkish intervention under the treaty of guarantee. But as described above, in light of Greek Cypriots objectives it was finally agreed that the UN should lead on the situation. The UK and the Greek Cypriots both appealed to the Council in February 1964, leading to the unanimous adoption of resolution 186 which:

    • called upon member states to refrain from any action likely to worsen the situation in Cyprus;
    • asked the Government of Cyprus to stop violence and bloodshed on the island;
    • called upon the communities to act with utmost restraint; and
    • recommended the creation of a peacekeeping force and the appointment of a mediator.

This led to the establishment of UNFICYP in March 1964.

The Council took up Cyprus again in August 1966 and, in resolution 193, appealed to the Turkish government to immediately cease bombardments and use of military force against Cyprus. It also appealed to the government of Cyprus to order its armed forces to immediately cease firing.

It is unclear from the public records why, in the lead up to the 1974 crisis, with clear evidence of infiltration of weapons and foreign troops, the Council never imposed an arms embargo. The crisis in 1974, however, left the Council with no choice. It had to take up the Cyprus question again. It subsequently adopted eight resolutions from 20 July to 30 August, calling upon states to respect the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Cyprus, requesting a ceasefire, demanding an immediate end to foreign military intervention and requesting the withdrawal of foreign military personnel. Resolution 359 of 15 August deplored the killing and wounding of UNFICYP personnel “as a direct result of the military action which is still continuing in Cyprus”. However, it did not refer to the circumstances that prompted the Turkish intervention, nor the threat to Turkish Cypriots, and it did not condemn the coup which had been very widely condemned. The Council failed to influence events on the ground, and ultimately it was the collapse of the Greek junta that removed the threat that had caused Turkey to intervene and only then did Turkey declare a ceasefire.

The Council also began to focus on the refugee situation (although this was mainly a General Assembly issue). In resolution 361 of 30 August 1974, the Council expressed grave concern at the plight of refugees and urged the parties concerned to search for peaceful solutions. It also requested the Secretary-General to submit a report on the situation of the refugees and decided to keep that situation under constant review.

In December 1974 resolution 365 was adopted following the Cyprus debate in the General Assembly. In it the Council endorsed General Assembly resolution 3212 (XXIX) which had “called for the withdrawal of foreign troops”.

In resolution 367 (12 March 1975) the Council expressed regret at the unilateral decision that part of Cyprus might become a “Federated Turkish State.” In 1983 the Council acted much more firmly and deplored the Turkish Cypriot declaration of purported secession, which it deemed “legally invalid” and called on states not to recognise any Cypriot state other than the Republic of Cyprus (resolution 541 of 18 November 1983). In 1984, resolution 550 condemned all secessionist actions and called upon all states not to facilitate or in any way assist the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”.

The Council’s rejection in the 1980s of the secessionist entity has been followed more recently by recommendations from the Secretary-Generals on the need to reduce the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots. The Secretary-General made a first reference to the problem of isolation in his 28 May 2004 report (S/2004/437) calling on all states to “eliminate unnecessary restrictions and barriers that have the effect of isolating the Turkish Cypriots and impeding their development—not for the purposes of affording recognition or assisting secession, but as a positive contribution to the goal of reunification.” Subsequent reports on UNFICYP have reiterated this recommendation but the Council has been divided on the question and has made no reference to this issue in a resolution (Russia in particular is opposed to it). The problem of the Turkish Cypriots’ isolation is politically sensitive because some claim that acknowledging the problem would be equivalent to tilting towards the Turkish Cypriot position.

6.2. Evolution of the Council’s framework for a negotiated solution

When in resolution 186 the Council provided a mandate for a mediator who was to seek an “agreed settlement” of the Cyprus problem, it tacitly accepted that some adjustments to the 1959 London-Zürich agreement and the Cypriot constitution were probably going to be necessary. However, the Council always adhered to the general principles of these agreements as a bedrock for a negotiated solution and progressively built on the bedrock principles such as: no partition; no enosis; a political system reflecting the bi-communal nature of the island; and political equality. The Council became in effect a guarantor of the 1959 agreement as a default position pending the necessity to re-negotiate some of the features of the Cypriot state in light of the evolving situation.

1974 was an important turning point for Cyprus. The island’s territorial integrity was challenged. The de facto separation between north and south confirmed that the 1960 constitutional order was dead and would not be revived any time soon. In addition, the presence of Turkish troops in the north provided Turkish Cypriots with more leverage.

Initially the Council neither condoned nor condemned the Turkish invasion in 1974. In resolution 353 (20 July 1974) the Council called for a ceasefire and called upon all states to respect the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Cyprus. On 23 July it “demanded” a ceasefire and on 15 August it “insisted on compliance”. However, on 16 August, in resolution 360, the Council recorded its “formal disapproval of the unilateral military actions undertaken against the Republic of Cyprus” and urged the parties to resume negotiations “whose outcome should not be impeded or prejudged by the acquisition of advantages resulting from military operations.” And by endorsing in December 1974 resolution 3212 (XXIX) of the General Assembly which called for the continuation of negotiations taking place “on an equal footing” the Council provided a basis for a new approach to the issue. In resolution 367, the Council again took up this new formulation, adding that all states should refrain from any attempt at partition or unification with any other country.

From this point, the Council started to become more involved in developing a new framework for a solution to the Cyprus problem. In a preambular paragraph of resolution 410 (15 June 1977), the Council took note of the report of the Secretary-General concerning the high level meeting between the leaders and emphasised the need to adhere to the agreement reached, providing for a bi-communal federal republic.

In resolution 451 (15 June 1979), the Council went further by urging the parties to proceed with inter-communal talks within the framework of the 19 May 1979 ten-point agreement between the two leaders (which reaffirmed the 1977 agreement and added provisions for territorial and constitutional aspects) and within the concept of bi-communality, and excluding union in whole or in part with any other country and any form of partition or secession was explicitly included for the first time.

In 1986, the Council indirectly recognised bi-zonality by taking note of Secretary-General Pérez de Cuéllar’s Draft Framework Agreement in resolution 585 of 13 June 1986.

By the time of the creation of the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”, though, the ten-point agreement had still not been implemented. The Council stopped referring to it in resolutions until 1990, when Secretary-General Pérez de Cuéllar resumed his good offices and held a meeting with the parties.

Resolution 649 of 12 March 1990 for the first time provided a detailed framework for the negotiations using these new concepts. It called upon the leaders of the two communities to pursue their efforts to reach a solution providing for the establishment of a federation that would be bi-communal as regards the constitutional aspects and bi-zonal as regards the territorial aspects in line with the 1977 and 1979 agreements and to cooperate on an equal footing with the Secretary-General. And the concept of “political equality” as defined by the Secretary-General in his report of 8 March 1990 (S/21183) was first endorsed by the Council in resolution 716 of 11 October 1991.

Ever since, the Council has been consistent in its approach and has repeatedly reaffirmed that its position on a solution to the Cyprus problem is based on a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation comprising two politically equal communities, as set out in the relevant Council resolutions.

The Council has also continued to support major proposals by Secretaries-General:

  • resolution 774 of 26 August 1992 endorsed the “Set of Ideas”;
  • resolution 839 of 11 June 1993 supported the package of confidence-building measures; and
  • resolution 1475 of 14 April 2003 gave full support to “the Secretary-General’s carefully balanced plan of 26 February 2003 as a unique basis for further negotiations” and called on “all concerned to negotiate within the framework of the Secretary-General’s Good Offices, using the plan to reach a comprehensive settlement…”

After the 2004 failure of the Annan plan, the Council kept a low-key approach (as did the Secretary-General), mainly limiting itself to renewing the mandate of UNFICYP. But when talks between the two communities resumed, the Council immediately gave its support. In August 2006, the Council, in a press statement (SC/8820) welcomed the 8 July 2006 agreement between the two leaders and called for its full implementation. The Council then regularly reminded the parties that continuing the status quo was unacceptable, and encouraged active participation in bi-communal discussions at the technical level, under the leadership of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General. Council resolutions also urged the parties in several resolutions to work to ensure that fully fledged negotiations could begin expeditiously and smoothly. The 21 March agreement between the two leaders was also warmly welcomed by the Council in a presidential statement (S/PRST/2008/9 of 15 April 2008) and in the latest resolution 1818. The resumption of “fully-fledged” negotiations was also warmly welcomed by the Council on 4 September 2008 (S/PRST/2008/34).


7. Evolution of UNFICYP’s mandate and activities

7.1. From 1964 to 1974: maintaining the truce

UNFICYP was established in resolution 186 of 4 March 1964 with a mandate to:

  • prevent a recurrence of fighting;
  • contribute to the maintenance and restoration of law and order; and
  • contribute to a return to normal conditions.

Because the mandate was relatively vague in the resolution, on 11 April 1964 the Secretary-General circulated a note with further clarifications (S/5653). According to it, the Force was to avoid any action designed to influence the political situation on the island. It also went into detail on the principles of self defence. The troops would not take any initiative in using arms except in situation of self defence which included: (a) the defence of UN posts, premises and vehicles under armed attack; and (b) the support of other personnel of UNFICYP under armed attack. The note restricted actions by troops of UNFICYP, in particular action likely to bring UNFICYP into direct conflict with either community in Cyprus, except in three special situations, namely: (a) where members of the Force are compelled to act in self defence; (b) where the safety of the Force or of members of it are in jeopardy; and (c) where specific arrangements accepted by both communities have been violated and so risking a recurrence of fighting or endangering law and order. The document stipulated two further restricting requirements: (a) the principle of minimum force when acting in self defence; and (b) a resort to force only when all peaceful means of persuasion have failed. Specific types of incidents provoking self-defence were also listed, and the note also prohibited the use of automatic weapons except in extreme emergency. Freedom of movement however was significant. Finally, the note also clarifies UNFICYP’s mandate with regards to brokering ceasefires between the two communities.

There was unanimity within the Council for the establishment of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus. For the UK and the US, an intervention was of utmost importance to prevent fighting among two NATO members (Greece and Turkey), and Makarios had rejected a NATO-led operation. For France and the Soviet Union, the situation in Cyprus was also of great concern, but they were reluctant to give a strong mandate to the Force. One reason seems to be that France and the Soviet Union at that time were resisting additional financial commitments for UN peacekeeping missions because of substantial expenditure at the time in UN peacekeeping operations in the Congo (ONUC) and along the Egyptian-Israeli border (UNEF I). As a result, the UNFICYP mandate was rather limited in scope.

UNFICYP numbered 6,411 troops and police as of 8 June 1964, mainly from NATO countries. When the Force became operational on 27 March 1964, it had to face sporadic and widely dispersed violence across the country. There was no front line, nor a ceasefire that the force would have had to enforce. Nevertheless in his first report on UNFICYP (S/5764 of 15 June 1964), the Secretary-General noted that the goal of preventing the recurrence of fighting had been accomplished.

Despite clarifications, UNFICYP’s mandate was interpreted differently by the Turkish Cypriots and the Greek Cypriots. In his report to the Council of 10 September 1964 (S/5950) the Secretary-General clarified the term “return to normal conditions” which for the Turkish Cypriots meant the restoration of the constitutional situation while the Greek Cypriots viewed it as a mandate to restore a unitary state in which the Turkish Cypriots would be a minority. He emphasised that UNFICYP was not there to and could not satisfy the hopes of either community as its task was more to halt violence and create an atmosphere more favourable for a long term settlement.

In fact, until 1974, the Force played a positive role in bringing about a decline in the level of inter-communal violence, and managed to support the necessary conditions for a sustainable truce—although restrictions regarding UNFICYP’s interposition mandate to impose a ceasefire prevented UNFICYP from intervening in larger scale operations between the two communities. UNFICYP also provided some protection to the Turkish Cypriot enclaves which were the confined areas of greatest tension—although the deployment of the Force did not prevent the killing of Turkish Cypriots. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General, who had been given the task to facilitate inter-communal talks, helped preserve the status quo.

It was clear that UNFICYP was not likely to be able to bring about a return to normal conditions, such as freedom of movement for all communities, removal of fortified positions, disarming of militias, resumption of public services, normalisation of economic and social conditions and the reinstatement of the 1960 constitutional order. This would have required negotiations by the parties and political will, both on the island and in Greece and Turkey, but that was not forthcoming.

UNFICYP’s mandate was expanded in resolution 244 of 22 December 1967 to include the supervision of disarmament and arrangements to safeguard internal security. However, UNFICYP remained unable to stem the rearming of both communities and the infiltration of military personnel by all sides. Despite these drawbacks, because the level of violence had considerably decreased overall, by 1974 the troop level had been reduced to 2,200 men.

7.2. UNFICYP during the 1974 crisis

In 1974, UNFICYP had neither the mandate nor the military strength to block the Greek-supported coup d’état by the Cypriot National Guard or stop the consequential Turkish intervention. Despite reinforcements in July (which brought the level of troops to 4,400), it was unable to significantly affect the general military situation. On the contrary, it seems that the peacekeeping mission itself was the target of violence and a number of UNFICYP personnel were killed. It did however manage to negotiate ceasefires in different areas, protect the civilian population to some extent and assist in the evacuation of foreigners.

7.3. Since 1974: a frozen conflict

Following the 1974 hostilities, the Council adopted a number of resolutions expanding the mandate of UNFICYP to reflect the change of circumstances, in particular resulting from the partitioning of the island. New tasks included:

  • supervising the ceasefire;
  • maintaining the buffer zone and status quo;
  • humanitarian activities; and
  • supporting a political settlement to the Cyprus problem.

The original mandate to contribute to the return of normal conditions remained. In its resolution 383 of 13 December 1975 the Council noted from a report of the Secretary-General “that in existing circumstances the presence of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus is still needed not only to maintain the cease-fire but also to facilitate the continued search for a peaceful settlement”. However the Force now faced an international dividing line between north and south which reflected a fundamental change in Cyprus that was not the one in which the original mandate was established. This affected its activities in the north in particular where the Force could not carry out its mandate of providing relief for Greek Cypriots in enclaves behind the Turkish defence lines, despite the continuing consent of the host state (the Cypriot government). Although the situation relaxed in 1979 with a new set of guidelines for UNFICYP’s freedom of movement issued by the Turkish Cypriot authorities, the transit of UN vehicles was still restricted.

Since the 1974 truce, violence greatly decreased and is today almost nonexistent. The positioning of UNFIYCP in and around the buffer zone separating the two communities constituted a major deterrent for any action by either side. In recent years, the military status quo has remained apart from minor air incursions into the buffer zone, occasional incidents of ill-discipline by junior soldiers on each side, and occasional restrictions of UNFICYP movement at access points to the zone in particular by Turkish forces stationed in Strovilia and in the Turkish Cypriot part of Cyprus.

In response to the reduced threat of violence, UNFICYP’s troop number has gradually been reduced. Most recently, on 22 October 2004 the Council in resolution 1568 endorsed recommendations from the Secretary-General to reduce the military component of the mission from 1,224 to 860, along with the adoption of a more mobile and efficient concept of operations.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General continued to facilitate inter-communal talks. One achievement in May 1989 was the agreement between the two sides to cease patrols in certain sensitive locations in Nicosia (where most incidents occur due to the very close proximity of the ceasefire lines). Moving opposing troops further apart reduced the number of incidents in Nicosia. The Council has regularly referred to this agreement in resolutions calling for its full implementation.

UNFICYP has also conducted demining operations and in 1998 established a civil affairs branch to assist people living in the buffer zone and a small number of minority communities on both sides of the island with issues affecting their daily lives as part of UNFICYP’s humanitarian mandate to encourage a resumption of civilian activity in the buffer zone. In this way, the force has provided support for confidence-building activities between the two communities such as the facilitation of agreements to open more crossing points, organisation of bi-communal events, liaison between the two sides on common criminal matters, etc.

Over the years, the absence of a political settlement, however, led successive Secretaries-General to conclude that the situation on the island remained sufficiently unstable that a continuing presence by UNFICYP was necessary. This assessment is generally shared by both Greek and Turkish Cypriots. But some critics argue that the presence of UNFICYP prolonged or “froze” the status quo and failed to provide incentives for the parties to bring about a serious negotiated settlement.

7.4. Financial issues

A major impediment to UNFICYP in its first three decades was a lack of secure funding. Until 1993 UNFICYP’s budget was funded from voluntary contributions. Because France and the Soviet Union were opposed to committing financial resources to UNFICYP at the beginning, the Council decided in 1964 that the cost of the mission would be borne by the troop contributors and defrayed by voluntary contributions. This arrangement created strains for the troop contributing countries. A Finnish battalion withdrew in 1977, Sweden significantly reduced its troop contribution in 1988, a Danish battalion withdrew and British, Austrian and Canadian contingents were reduced in 1992, diminishing UNFICYP’s strength by 28 percent.

By 1993, the force had accumulated a deficit of $200 million because of insufficient contributions. Following UK and Canadian pressure and repeated warnings from the Secretary-General (including one report that other planned reductions would make UNFICYP unviable) in resolution 831 of 27 May 1993 the Council decided that UNFICYP’s costs not covered by voluntary contributions should be financed by member states through assessed contributions. A first attempt in 1993 at changing the methods of contribution was vetoed by Russia (S/25693), but an offer by the Cyprus government to contribute one third of UNFICYP’s annual budget (S/25647) subsequently convinced Russia to go along with the proposal. The Council, also in resolution 831, decided that UNFICYP should be restructured to the minimum number of infantry battalions required to maintain effective control of the buffer zone.


8. Council and Wider Dynamics
Within the Council the UK and the US in particular have had a strong interest in the Cyprus issue. And at different times Russia and France have played important roles. Discussions on Cyprus usually take place among the P5 first (although China has had less input), and the UK has the lead and drafts resolutions. Elected members do not usually play a major role.

8.1. The UK

The UK is a guarantor power and the former colonial authority. It has been particularly involved in the Cyprus dispute since the onset.

As the Ottoman Empire started to decline in the early 19th century, European powers (the UK, Russia and France mainly) sought to fill the gap and expand their influence in Asia and the Middle East, at the expense of the Ottomans. Strong historical connections between the UK and Greece (a Greek diaspora, principally merchants, had a base in London and Liverpool), combined with a desire to weaken the Ottomans, led to British support for the Greeks during the 1821-1829 Greek War of Independence. Greece became an independent monarchy under the 1832 Treaty of Constantinople and the London Protocol under which France, the UK and Russia were guarantors.

In the second half of the 19th century, as the Ottoman Empire continued to decline, British politicians began to worry more about French and Russian intentions in the Mediterranean and in the Middle East. British concern for Russia’s expansionism was particularly acute and it seems that this drove much of British policy during this period. For instance, the UK participated in the Crimean War in 1854-1856 together with France, Sardinia and the Ottoman Empire against Russia. It is against this background that in the aftermath of the Russo-Turkish War (1877-1878) that the UK concluded the Convention of Defensive Alliance with the Ottomans which ceded the administration of Cyprus—which was still within the Ottoman Empire—to the UK. The island would serve Britain as a key military base in the eastern Mediterranean.

Relations between Turkey and the UK changed during the First World War when the Ottoman Empire aligned itself with Germany. Formal British annexation of Cyprus took place in 1914 when the UK felt no longer bound by the 1878 agreement. After the war, the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne placed Cyprus under British sovereignty. (Both Greece and Turkey agreed.)

After the Second World War, British relations with Greece and Turkey over Cyprus became more complicated as the enosis campaign grew in strength in Cyprus and the Turkish Cypriots, in reaction, demanded links with Turkey. Until the 1950s, as seen above, the UK tried to contain increasing nationalisms on the island.

But as the pressure for self-determination grew stronger, not only in Cyprus but also in other colonies, and violence grew in Cyprus, the UK started to re-adjust its policy. At this point, Cold War analysis was also a major factor in British policy. An independent and stable Cyprus had more advantages than enosis or partition because of the problems either would cause within NATO, especially given Turkey’s strategic significance. The Greek Cypriots felt frustrated by what they considered to be UK disregard for their aspirations—and there were many casualties in the Greek Cypriot struggle against British rule.

Greece’s policy on the Cyprus problem from the 1930s to the 1950s was at times ambiguous. It seems that during some periods Greece’s interest was not to antagonise the UK over Cyprus as the UK supported Greek interests elsewhere. This perhaps explains why Greece agreed to consider a solution that would not include enosis.

In 1959, the UK finally decided on granting independence. The issue was how to disengage while maintaining military bases in Cyprus and at the same time coming up with a constitutional solution which avoided antagonising Greece or Turkey. The solution was the Treaty of Guarantee which allowed the three powers to retain influence—the UK militarily, Turkey in defence of the Turkish Cypriots and Greece in defence of the Greek Cypriots.

Currently, the UK owns two sovereign military bases in Cyprus, Akrotiri and Dhekelia, which cover 3 percent of the land area of the island, granted by the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee. After independence, the UK adopted a low profile policy of non-interference in Cypriot affairs in the late 1960s and early 1970s. As a result, although article II of the Treaty of Guarantee requires the other parties to guarantee the independence, territorial integrity and security of Cyprus, the UK remained relatively passive in 1974 (it only dispatched a helicopter carrier and several other ships to evacuate some 12,000 British and other foreign nationals). By contrast, Turkey invoked article IV of the same treaty to intervene, saying that the treaty authorised the use of force to maintain the current state of affairs in Cyprus. The legality of the invasion was however seriously challenged—the treaty does not explicitly refer to military intervention and the UN Charter states that no member state has the right to intervene militarily in another state without the consent of the Security Council. In fact the Council, by adopting resolution 353 calling upon states to respect the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Cyprus and demanding an immediate end to foreign military intervention, indirectly disapproved Turkey’s legal argument. The UK voted in favour of this resolution (which was adopted unanimously).

Most recently, the issue of Cyprus within the European Union has been an important element for the UK (as well as for other EU members). The UK supports Turkey’s accession to the EU and it has publicly acknowledged the interests and aspirations of the Turkish Cypriots. For instance, it signed a strategic partnership with Turkey in October 2007 containing a provision for ending the isolation of Turkish Cypriots.

8.2. The Soviet Union and Russia

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union’s policy on Cyprus—a situation involving a dispute between two NATO powers—seemed to be based on the fact that this presented a golden opportunity to weaken NATO. On the other hand, the issue had its problems for them as well. It opposed enosis because that would have placed Cyprus within a NATO country. It seems that the core of the Soviet policy was to preserve the independence of Cyprus (which had joined the Non-Aligned Movement) without necessarily resolving the underlying situation because the ongoing crisis served its strategic interests. It therefore supported Cyprus’ sovereignty against Turkish invasion but the Makarios government received little other Soviet support.

After the Cold War, Russia became more supportive of the UN in finding a negotiated solution to the problem on the island. However, it also began to strengthen relations with the Republic of Cyprus, becoming a supporter of the Greek Cypriots within the Council. The orthodox church connection may have been a factor in this regard. Another factor may have been general Russian fears regarding secessionist entities. For example, Russia opposed on 21 April 2004 a US and UK-sponsored resolution (S/2004/313) aimed at guaranteeing the security of Cyprus if the Annan plan was accepted on the grounds that this would influence the outcome of the referendum (S/PV.4947).

8.3. The US

Despite the presence of a significant Greek community in the US, the US never encouraged enosis. During the Cold War, the primary interest of the US was to prevent a Greco-Turkish rift posing a threat to the credibility of NATO. In the early stages of the Cyprus problem, the US pushed for settling the Cyprus question within NATO, trying to prevent the issue from being internationalised, perhaps fearing that if it came to the UN this would enable the Soviet Union to meddle. The presence of an influential Greek-Cypriot communist party (AKEL) on the island was another concern for the US.

In the early years of the Cold War, Turkey was important to the US and a strong relationship was quickly established. The US saw Turkey as the bulwark of NATO’s southeastern flank, directly bordering the Soviet Union. Turkey also wanted US support to contain Soviet expansionism at the end of the Second World War. Soviet territorial claims against Turkey were a concern. In 1945 the Soviet Union had attempted to annul the 1923 Kars Treaty of Friendship between Turkey, Soviet Armenia, Soviet Azerbaijan and Soviet Georgia with the participation of Bolshevik Russia, ceding to Turkey some territory acquired by Russia from the Ottoman Empire during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878. In 1947 the US started providing Turkey with special economic and military assistance, and Turkey joined NATO in 1952.

But Greece was also an important partner for the US during the period. As noted above, the US and Greece have long-standing historical, political, and cultural ties based on the history of Greek immigration to the US and participation as allies during the Second Word War and the Korean War. The 1947 Truman doctrine stated that the US would support not only Turkey but Greece as well to prevent their falling under Soviet control, and Greece also joined NATO in 1952.

Therefore in 1974, the US found itself in a difficult position vis-à-vis the Turkish intervention in Cyprus. The US role during that period of history is still being debated by historians as there were mixed signals within the US administration at that time. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was allegedly supporting Turkey’s intervention. By contrast, some say, the US may have played a role in the coup against Makarios. (The US did not have good relations with the Makarios government, which was a NAM member.) The degree of US involvement, if any,in either supporting the Greek junta or the Turkish invasion continues to be debated. The Watergate scandal in Washington and the fact that President Nixon resigned from office a few days after the Turkish invasion may also partly explain the initially uncertain US response to the Turkish intervention. In the end, the US decided to disapprove of Turkey’s intervention, and under President Gerald Ford the US halted arms supplies to Turkey. The Cyprus issue therefore affected the US-Turkish relations for several years, even after the US lifted the arms embargo in 1978. In 1981, the US also chose not to recognise the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, perhaps weighing consequences of support for either Greece or Turkey. Because Greece joined the EC (now the EU) in 1981, recognising the “TRNC” would also have been detrimental to US relations with the EU. In addition, acknowledging the division of Cyprus would have weakened NATO and, again, this may have been exploited by the Soviet Union.

Today it seems that Cyprus continues to be important for the US in terms of its Middle East policy—mainly because of Cyprus’ strategic location. The existence of a constructive relationship between Israel and Turkey has also been welcomed by the US and this may have had an impact on the US policy toward Cyprus. On balance, however, it seems that the main interest in Cyprus for the US is a fair and permanent settlement of the Cyprus problem.

8.4. France 

France had only a limited interest in Cyprus in the past. In recent years, however, Cyprus has played a larger role for France in its capacity as a Council member and also within the EU context. It has tended to be supportive of the Greek Cypriots. For instance, it supported the idea that the recognition of Cyprus by Turkey should be a precondition to join the EU. And significantly, the current French administration is opposed to Turkish EU accession.

Divisions within the P5 have been more visible in the Council since the failure of the Annan plan and were reflected on the following issues.

  • Isolation of the north: Any attempt to include in resolutions a reference to the isolation of Turkish Cypriots would be blocked by France and Russia, while favoured by the UK.
  • UNFICYP: In the absence of political progress, a possible reduction or even withdrawal of UNFICYP was contemplated by the US and UK – although never formally proposed. But UNFICYP is considered vital by the Greek Cypriots in order to ensure the military status quo on the island, and France and Russia have therefore been opposed to reductions of the force.

8.5. The “mother countries”: Greece and Turkey

By 1500 most of the plains and islands of Greece had fallen into Ottoman hands. While the Greeks preserved their culture and traditions through the institution of the Greek Orthodox Church, they were a minority within the Ottoman Empire. However, in the 18th and 19th centuries, as the Ottoman Empire’s power was declining, Greek nationalism began to assert itself, with the Greek cause beginning to draw support from the Greek merchant diaspora.

Greece won its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1832 after an extremely bloody conflict with Ottoman troops that lasted from 1821 to 1829, which was only resolved by British, Russian and French military intervention in 1827 and 1828. A conference in London in March 1829 proposed an independent Greek state but the Greeks were bitterly disappointed at what they viewed as restricted frontiers. They however were not in a position to resist European will and in 1832 Greece was finally recognized as a sovereign state.

Greco-Turkish relations have been mostly hostile since Greece’s independence. They faced each other in four major wars: the Greco-Turkish War (1897), the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913, the First World War and the Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922), most of the time triggered by territorial disputes. The Greco-Turkish War was particularly bloody. The Greek presence on Turkish land was reduced from about two million to about 100,000, while about 400,000 Muslims, mostly Turkish, were ousted by Greeks in a massive and violent “population exchange”. This left enduring scars in both countries.

Against this background, the situation in Cyprus has often triggered outbreaks of Greek and Turkish nationalism. Both Greece and Turkey have portrayed themselves as protectors of Greek and Turkish Cypriots respectively. They participated in the treaties giving rise to Cyprus independence in 1960 and, after independence, they respectively provided weapons and other support to the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot militias.

Turkey’s goal has always been to protect the Turkish Cypriots’ community in Cyprus as well as maintaining its influence. The Turkish position over time has remained consistent: it seeks to maintain the maximum autonomy for the Turkish Cypriots. This position hardened over the years, not only with the “TRNC” declaration of independence but also in light of what it calls “political realities”—the fact that the internationally recognised Cypriot government consists of only Greek Cypriots requires a counter-weight to protect the Turkish Cypriot community, hence the refusal of Turkey to withdraw its military forces and its resistance to compliance with Council resolutions in that regard.

Turkey seems to continue to enjoy a more direct influence on the Turkish Cypriots than Greece does in relation to the Greek Cypriots. As seen above, the enosis policy of the Greek government fluctuated over time. Greece initially pressed the UK and the US to support enosis. Then, the 1956-1963 Karamanlis Greek government shifted position and began pressuring Makarios to accept the 1959 London-Zürich agreement. (Makarios’ 13 points in 1963 were also rejected by the Greek government.) The next Greek government, under the premiership of George Papandreou took a different line and revived the enosis goal, and sent a Greek army division to Cyprus after the first clashes between the two communities. The 1967-1974 military regime in Greece strongly supported enosis but had its own grievances against Cypriot President Makarios who by then had traded the idea of enosis for independence. The 1974 Greek-backed coup d’état in Cyprus led to a period of strain between the Greek and Cypriot governments, and the idea of enosis was never seriously revived afterwards. However Greece has provided enormous humanitarian assistance to the Cypriots. In more recent times, Greece’s policy has been to ensure that the Cyprus question has wide international understanding. It has supported the inter-communal talks under UN auspices and has insisted on a solution that responds to the Greek Cypriot concerns and preserves Cyprus’ integrity.

Despite the important interests that both Greece and Turkey have in Cyprus, and the fact that they follow the process very carefully, they do not take a direct part in negotiations between Greek and Turkish Cypriots.

8.6. The EU factor

Cyprus’ EU membership and Turkey’s candidacy have influenced some Council members when dealing with Cyprus. The UK is supportive of Turkey’s EU accession, and with support from the US, they have tended to be more sensitive to Turkish Cypriots’ complaints regarding their isolation—contrary to France which opposes Turkey’s entry. Divisions within the EU on Turkey’s accession have also influenced positions of some elected Council members.

Germany has said that Turkey should be offered a “privileged partnership” rather than full membership. The Scandinavian countries and the states which joined the EU in 2004 (the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia) are broadly in favour of Turkey’s candidacy.

Greece has not come out against Turkey’s membership (to the contrary, it publicly showed support for Turkey’s accession on several occasions). However, it exerted considerable pressure on the EU to accept Cyprus in 2004 without a condition on prior reunification. It did so by threatening to veto all other enlargement candidates.

Turkey’s EU candidacy has also had an impact on the Cyprus problem in other ways. The European Union requested Turkey to open its ports and airports to traffic from Cyprus as an EU member. Turkey refused to do so unless the EU took steps to end the Turkish Cypriot community’s economic isolation. Some of Turkey’s supporters seem to fear that the Cyprus question could be used as a proxy for preventing Turkey’s entry. Turkey, for its part, clearly does not expect that any easing of its policy on Cyprus, allowing for a quick and easy reunification of the island, would be rewarded by quick and easy entry to the EU, as it probably knows that resistance to its EU membership has deeper causes. Consequently, although there are linkages, the Cyprus problem and Turkey’s entry into the EU really do proceed as two separate issues.


9. Selected UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1818 (13 June 2008) was the latest resolution renewing the mandate of UNFICYP until 15 December 2008.
  • S/RES/1728 (15 December 2006) expressed full support for the 8 July 2006 process and called for early completion of the preparatory phase so that a fully-fledged good offices process may resume as soon as possible.
  • S/RES/1568 (22 October 2004) endorsed the Secretary-General’s recommendations for the amendment of the concept of operations and reduction of UNFICYP’s force level to 860 military personnel.
  • S/RES/1475 (14 April 2003) gave its full support to the Secretary-General’s second revision of his plan to reach a comprehensive settlement.
  • S/RES/1250 (26 June 1999) called upon the two leaders to resume negotiations under the auspices of the Secretary-General and committing to a set of principles.
  • S/RES/1217 (22 December 1998) welcomed the establishment of a civil affairs branch for UNFICYP.
  • S/RES/839 (11 June 1993) endorsed the package of confidence-building measures.
  • S/RES/831 (27 May 1993) changed the method of financing for UNFICYP and decided that UNFICYP’s costs not covered by voluntary contributions should be financed by member states through assessed contributions, and restructured the composition of the force.
  • S/RES/750 (10 April 1992) endorsed the Secretary-General’s “Set of Ideas”.
  • S/RES/716 (11 October 1991) reaffirmed that its position on the solution to the Cyprus problem is based on one state of Cyprus comprising two politically equal communities as defined by the Secretary-General in his 8 March 1990 report.
  • S/RES/649 (12 March 1990) for the first time provided a detailed framework for the negotiations: called upon the leaders of the two communities to pursue their efforts to reach a solution providing for the establishment of a federation that would be bi-communal as regards the constitutional aspects and bi-zonal as regards the territorial aspects in line with the 1977 and 1979 agreements and to cooperate on an equal footing with the Secretary-General.
  • S/RES/585 (13 June 1986) took note of the Draft Framework Agreement.
  • S/RES/550 (11 May 1984) condemned all secessionists actions and called upon all states not to facilitate or in any way assist the “TRNC.”
  • S/RES/541 (18 November 1983) declared the self-proclamation of the “TRNC” legally invalid, called for its withdrawal and called upon all states not to recognise any Cypriot state other than the Republic of Cyprus.
  • S/RES/451 (15 June 1979) urged the parties to proceed with inter-communal talks within the framework of the 19 May High Level agreement.
  • S/RES/410 (15 June 1977) emphasised the need for the parties to adhere to the High Level agreement reached on 12 February 1977.
  • S/RES/367 (12 March 1975) regretted the unilateral decision to create a “Federated Turkish State” and stated that it would not prejudge the final political settlement of the problem of Cyprus.
  • S/RES/365 (13 December 1974) endorsed General Assembly resolution 3212 (XXIX).
  • S/RES/361 (30 August 1974) expressed grave concern at the plight of refugees, urged the parties concerned to search for peaceful solutions, requested the Secretary-General to submit a report on the situation of the refugees and decided to keep that situation under constant review.
  • S/RES/360 (16 August 1974) urged the parties to resume negotiations “whose outcome should not be impeded or prejudged by the acquisition of advantages resulting from military operations.”
  • S/RES/359 (15 August 1974) deplored the killing and wounding of UNFICYP personnel “as a direct result of the military action which is still continuing in Cyprus”.
  • S/RES/353 (20 July 1974) called on all parties to cease firing, demanded an immediate end to the foreign military intervention in Cyprus and withdrawal of troops and called upon all states to respect the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Cyprus.
  • S/RES/244 (22 December 1967) extended UNFICYP’s mandate and noted the Secretary-General’s report recommending including the supervision of disarmament and arrangements to safeguard internal security in the mandate.
  • S/RES/193 (9 August 1964) called upon all parties to cease firing and called on Turkey to stop the bombardments and on the Cypriot government to order its armed forces to cease firing.
  • S/RES/186 (4 March 1964) called on member states to refrain from any action likely to worsen the situation in Cypriot, on the Cyprus government to stop the violence and recommended the creation of a peacekeeping force and the appointment of a mediator.

Vetoed Draft Resolutions

  • S/2004/313 (21 April 2004) established a new UN mission in Cyprus to monitor the implementation of the Foundation Agreement and provide a secure environment, and established an arms embargo on Cyprus. This was vetoed by Russia. In S/PV.4947 statements were made by Council members before and after the vote.
  • S/25693 (29 April 1993) was a draft resolution vetoed by Russia changing UNFICYP’s methods of financing and S/PV.3211.
  • S/11400/Rev.1 (31 July 1974) requested the Secretary-General to take appropriate action in the light of a statement he made regarding the role, functions and strength of UNFICYP and related issues arising out of the most recent political developments in respect of Cyprus. It was vetoed by Russia. The same draft was later adopted adding a request to the Secretary-General to present a full report in the light of his statement and a consideration that the cease-fire would be a first step in implementation of resolution 353.

Latest Presidential Statements

  • S/PRST/2008/34 (4 September 2008) confirmed the Council’s readiness to support the negotiating process between the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities and welcomed the appointment of Alexander Downer as the Secretary-General’s Special Advisor.
  • S/PRST/2008/9 (17 April 2008) warmly welcomed the 21 March agreement between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders and the opening of the Ledra street crossing, reaffirmed its commitment to the reunification of Cyprus based on a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation and political equality, called for more confidence-building measures and welcomed prospects for the appointment of a special adviser.

Latest Press Statement

  • SC/8820 (29 August 2006) expressed support for the Secretary-General’s efforts aimed at reaching a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem, welcomed the agreement reached on 8 July 2006 and called for its full implementation without further delay.

Selected Reports from the Secretary-General

  • S/2008/353 (2 June 2008) was the latest report on UNFICYP.
  • S/2004/756 (24 September 2004) recommended the “Force 860” new concept of operations reducing the number of military troops to 860 from 1,300.
  • S/2004/437 (28 May 2004) was the last report on the mission of good offices in Cyprus deploring the rejection of the Foundation Agreement and calling all states to eliminate unnecessary restrictions isolating the Turkish Cypriots.
  • S/2004/302 (16 April 2004) provided explanations on the Foundation Agreement and recommend its endorsement.
  • S/26026 (1 July 1993) contained a package of confidence-building measures.
  • S/25492 (30 March 1993) warned that as a result of reductions by troop contributors in the size of their contingents, UNFICYP’s strength had been reduced from 2,141 in May 1992 to 1,513 in March 1993, and additional reductions would make UNFICYP unviable.
  • S/23780 (3 April 1992) outlined the “Set of Ideas on an overall framework agreement on Cyprus”.
  • S/21183 (8 March 1990) recognised and defined the concept of political equality.
  • S/18102/ADD.1 (11 June 1986) contained the Draft Framework Agreement.
  • S/13369 (31 May 1979) contained the agreement reached between the two leaders on 18 and 19 May 1979.
  • S/12323 (30 April 1977) contained the 12 February agreement between the two leaders.
  • S/8286 (8 December 1967) recommended enlarging the mandate of UNFICYP so as to include supervision of disarmament and arrangements to safeguard internal security.
  • S/6253 (26 March 1965) laid down the first observations on the future course of mediation.
  • S/5950 (10 September 1964) recognised that the presence of UNFICYP in Cyprus was a major factor in bringing the fighting in some areas to an end, and in preventing some incidents from escalating. The report also pointed out that a “return to normal conditions” as mentioned in Council resolution 186 does not mean, as the Turkish Cypriots believe, a complete restoration of the constitutional situation in Cyprus as it was before the fighting broke out in December 1963.
  • S/5764 (15 June 1964) was the first UNFICYP report noting that preventing the recurrence of fighting had been accomplished.
  • S/5653 (11 April 1964) was a note by the Secretary-General clarifying the UNFICYP mandate.

Latest Letters

  • S/2008/456 and S/2008/457 (14 July 2008) was an exchange of letters between the Secretary-General and the Council on the appointment of Alexander Downer as Special Adviser on Cyprus.
  • S/2008/246 and S/2008/247 (14 April 2008) was an exchange of letters on the appointment of Rear Admiral Mario Sanchez Debernardi as UNFICYP’s Force Commander.
  • S/2008/244 and S/2008/245 (14 April 2008) was an exchange of letters on the appointment of Tayé-Brook Zerihoun as Special Representative in Cyprus and Head of UNFICYP.

Selected Letters

  • S/2006/572 (25 July 2006) was a letter from the Secretary-General enclosing the “Set of Principles” and “Decision by the two leaders” agreed on 8 July 2006.
  • S/25647 (26 April 1993) was a letter from Cyprus offering to contribute one-third of UNFICYP’s annual budget.
  • S/11398 (30 July 1974) was a letter enclosing a declaration by the foreign ministers of Greece, Turkey and the UK in which they agreed that all Turkish enclaves occupied by Greek or Greek Cypriot forces would be evacuated and protected by UNFICYP, and affirmed that the timely and phased reduction of armed forces and armament in Cyprus would take place within the framework of a just and lasting solution acceptable to all the parties.
  • S/5488 (26 December 1963) was a letter of complaint from Cyprus against Turkey for acts of aggression and intervention in the internal affairs of Cyprus.

Selected General Assembly Resolutions

  • 37/253 (13 May 1983) expressed support for the inter-communal talks and 1977-1979 agreements, considered the withdrawal of all occupation forces from the Republic of Cyprus as an essential basis for the solution of the problem and called for the respect of freedom of settlement and right to property.
  • 33/15 (9 November 1978) recommended the Council to adopt “all appropriate and practical measures under the Charter” for ensuring the implementation of resolutions on Cyprus, “within a time frame.”
  • 32/128 (16 December 1977) requested the establishment of an investigatory body with the participation of the Red Cross to speedily resolve the issue of missing persons in Cyprus.
  • 32/15 (9 November 1977) recommended that the Council keep the question of Cyprus under constant review and promote the implementation of its resolutions.
  • 3212 (XXIX) (1 November 1974) called for the withdrawal of foreign troops, considered that the constitutional system concerned Greek and Turkish Cypriots, called upon the parties to take urgent measures for the return of refugees and requested the Secretary-General to continue his good offices.
  • 2077 (XX) (18 December 1965) called upon states to respect the sovereignty, unity independence and territorial integrity of Cyprus.
  • 1287 (XIII) (5 December 1958) expressed its confidence that continued efforts will be made by the parties to reach a peaceful, democratic and just solution.
  • 814 (IX) (17 December 1954) considered inappropriate for the time being to adopt a resolution on the question of Cyprus.

Other Document

  • 4 (XXXI) (13 February 1975) was a resolution from the Commission on Human Rights Council calling for the intensification of efforts aimed at tracing and accounting for missing persons.



10. Other Relevant Facts

Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on Cyprus

Alexander Downer (Australia)

Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of Mission

Taye-Brook Zerihoun (Ethiopia)

Force Commander

Rear Admiral Mario César Sánchez Debernardi (Peru)

Size and Composition of Mission (as of 31 January 2008)

  • Strength: 930 total uniformed personnel, including 861 troops and 69 police; supported by 35 international civilian personnel and 108 local civilian staff
  • Contributors of military and police personnel: Argentina (including soldiers from Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Peru), Australia, Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Canada, Croatia, El Salvador, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Slovakia and the UK


1 July 2007-30 June 2008: $48.85 million (including voluntary contributions of one-third from Cyprus and $6.5 million from Greece)


11. Useful Additional Sources

  • “Reunifying Cyprus: the best chance yet”, International Crisis Group, Europe Report No. 194, 23 June 2008
  • “Cyprus: Reversing the Drift to Partition”, International Crisis Group, Europe Report No. 190, 10 January 2008
  • “The Cyprus Stalemate: What Next?” International Crisis Group, Europe Report No. 171, 8 March 2006
  • Cyprus, A Troubled Island, Andrew Borowiec, Westport, 2000
  • Cyprus: A Modern History, William Mallinson, I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd, 2005
  • Exploring the Linkage between EU Accession and Conflict Resolution: the Cyprus Case, Susanne Baier-Allen, NomosVerlagsgesellschaft, Baden-Baden, 2004
  • “United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus”, by Karl Th. Birgisson, p. 219 to p. 236 in The Evolution of UN Peacekeeping: Case Studies and Comparative Analysis by William J. Durch, Macmillan, 1993
  • Recourse to Force: State Action Against Threat and Armed Attacks, Thomas M. Franck, Cambridge University Press, 2002, pp 117-121
  • Isle of Discord: nationalism, imperialism and the making of the Cyprus problem, Ioannis D. Stefanidis, New York University Press, 1999
  • Cyprus and International Peacemaking, Farid Mirbagheri, Hurst and Company, 1998
  • “The United Nations Peace Keeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP)”, John Theodorides, The International and Comparative Law Quarterly, Vol.3, No.4 (October 1982)
  • “UN Peacekeeping and Peacemaking and the Cyprus Question”, Van Coufoudakis, The Western Political Quarterly, Vol. 29, No.3 (September 1976).
  • “The UN General Assembly as an instrument of Greek policy: Cyprus, 1954-58”, Stephen G. Xydis, Journal of Conflict Resolution, 1968
  • UNFICYP homepage:

“The Geographical distribution of communities in Cyprus”, Alexander Melamid, Geographical Review, Vol. 46, No. 3 (July 1956)