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UNSCR 2723: Analyzing the Cyprus Situation


By Sarah Reeves


United Nations Security Resolution 2723

On January 30, 2024, the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously to renew United Nations peacekeeping forces in Cyprus. This extended the previous mandate for a full calendar year, until January 31st, 2025. UN forces have been in the country since 1964, with the aims of preventing conflict within the nation, supervising mandated ceasefires, ensuring that the buffer zone is maintained, and conducting humanitarian aid activities. As of November 2023, it is estimated that a total of 1,1017 peacekeeping forces have been deployed to Cyprus, with main military contributors hailing from the United Kingdom, Argentina, and Slovakia. As peacekeeping forces mark their 60th anniversary in the country, the question remains: how did it get to this point?


Background

Cyprus is an island in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, just South of Turkey. In August of 1960, after a long campaign of guerilla warfare by the National Organization of Cypriot Fighters, Cyprus achieved independence from its former colonizer, the United Kingdom. To establish its newfound independence, the country’s new Constitution required a Greek president, elected by the Greek community, a Turkish vice president, elected by the Turkish community, and the implementation of a civil service program that would be divided seventy percent for the Greeks and thirty percent for the Turks. The constitution attempted to split up governance, allowing for representation of the Turkish and Greek communities and allowing them to have a hand in running the new nation. However, following the new president’s proposed amendments to this constitution, fighting broke out between the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, with both sides asserting that they were pushed out of the government. In 1974, a Greece-backed coup overthrew the President, Makarios III, and the Turks invaded and occupied a third of the island of Cyprus, declaring the northern area that they invaded the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Thus began a conflict that continues today. 


The Republic of Turkey claims that its invasion in 1974 was not the cause of the modern Cyprus problem, but rather a consequence. Instead, they argue that the problem began in 1960 when Cyprus gained independence from Britain, and the conflict continues today due to the existence of two fundamentally different groups within one relatively small island. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus has not been, and is not recognized by, any country other than Turkey. 


While the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus wasn’t established until 1974, it was in 1964 that the UN first sent in peacekeeping forces to Cyprus. The peacekeeping mission’s original aim was only to prevent further violent conflict between the Greeks and the Turks. After the creation of the Turkish Republic, the UN Security Council widened the peacekeeper’s mandate to include more operations, such as supervising a ceasefire line and maintaining a buffer zone. The Security Council has since continued to renew peacekeeping missions within the country, marking over sixty years of peacekeepers within Cyprus. 


Current State of Affairs

During these sixty years of boots on the ground, the divided country has seemed remarkably peaceful. In this instance, peacekeeping missions appear to act as their name might suggest, keeping the peace, rather than attempting to create peace in times of violent conflict. The forces most commonly patrol the buffer zone between the Turkish Cypriots in the North and the Greeks in the South. Within the past twenty years, the borders between the two divided republics have become even more peaceful, with Cypriots from either republic having the ability to cross over the “green line.” Despite forty years of mandated peacekeeping missions, today, Cyprus is a popular tourist destination as it continues to exist as a divided nation. 


While from an outside perspective, the buffer zone appears to keep the divided island in a state of mutual toleration, a Security Council press statement from August of 2023 tells of a different story, one of continued underlying tensions. The UN statement expressed that the Turks launched unauthorized construction work inside the UN buffer zone, constituting a violation of the status quo. Turkish personnel were also suspected of committing assaults against UN peacekeepers and damaging UN vehicles. The Security Council condemned these actions and emphasized the importance of avoiding future actions in violation. This recent update signifies that perhaps Cyprus is not as peaceful as it seems. 


Possible Solutions and Approaches to Reconciliation

Policymakers and peacemakers alike have attempted to find mutually beneficial solutions to the Turkish-Greek division since the conflict began in 1964. So far, the peacekeeping soldiers have simply maintained the status quo, dividing the two sides, and encouraging both the Turks and the Greeks to mediate and find a possible solution. However, this approach has served only to strengthen the differences currently existing in the divided republics, and it does nothing to promote commonalities among all Cypriots. Some policymakers propose a different method to establishing peace: a conflict transformation approach. Under this approach, peacemakers would encourage all people to participate together to create reconciliation. Rather than encouraging ethnic nationalism, this method invites individuals to find commonalities with each other on a more individualized basis, creating a sense of community. This method would also serve to promote common interests and encourage continual peace-building rather than just an end to the current conflict. By creating an idea of the Cypriot nation as opposed to Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, perhaps an end to the division would be more feasible. 


While these methods may be easily explained on paper, in practice reconciliation is much more difficult to achieve. Peacekeepers on the ground have been attempting to find solutions for forty years, but instead have served more so as enforcers to the already existing divide. Despite the appeal of third-party intervention for an initial stopping of violent conflict, this is not a long-term solution. As evidenced by the lack of a solution after forty years of peacekeeping missions, a new resolution solution must be presented, for the good of Cypriots as a whole, and the success of either republic. 


Conclusion

The extension of the peacekeeping mandate in Cyprus through UNSCR2723 demonstrates a continued interest in peace and hope for a solution to the conflict in Cyprus. The resolution stresses that the status quo in the region is “unsustainable” and encourages both sides to respect the peacekeepers’ authority over the buffer zone. While the Republic of Cyprus has welcomed the renewal of UN peacekeeping forces, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus has opposed the resumption, arguing that the peacekeepers have not treated both sides equally. The differing opinions on the renewal seem to reflect a broader differing of opinions on solutions to the divided island. Perhaps the sixty years of third-party intervention is only the beginning of Cyprus’s future, with the end to this staged peace nowhere in sight. 

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