History Of United Nations Peacekeeping Operations: UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus Case

Maintaining ceasefires, stabilizing situations, and providing support to resolve conflict peacefully were the only aims of the United Nations during its establishment. UN exists those missions with a non-armed military observer and casually armed troops in roles of advising, reporting, and building confidence. UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) and the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOG) were the first two peacekeeping operations, and they are continuing.[1] According to the official UN Peacekeeping account, there were eleven peacekeeping operations between 1949-1970, and UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus was one of them.

Taken from “The Global South and UN Peace Operations” which written by Thomas G. Weiss and Giovanna Kuele and published in E-International Relations.

After the end of the Cold War, UN Peacekeeping changed its scope from traditional to multidimensional[2]. As a result of this alteration, the UN Peacekeeping operations’ goals were to help lay the groundwork for ongoing peace and provide the implementation of peace agreements. Related to this changing nature of conflict and widening scope of UN Peacekeeping, UNSC actualized twenty new operations between 1989-1994. UN Angola Verification Mission 1&2 and UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia were examples of this e generations’ operations.

Achievement of those UN Peacekeeping Operations showed us they developed their capacity beyond expectation from them [3]. For instance, unlike previous operations, they were established when guns had not yet fallen silent. The Former Yugoslavia UN Protection Force and UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda are the best examples of this case. UN saw that when they go into ongoing conflict, the rate of failures is higher than others, which is why the UNSC has decided on restrictions to engage in ongoing conflicts to prevent failures.

In the 21st century, the main aim is to strengthen their capacity to merge and sustain field operations actively. At this point, the UN Wanted to perform even more complex tasks from UN Peacekeeping. UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo, UN Operation in Burundi, or UN Transitional Administration in East Timor have handled it in this context. Now, UN Peacekeeping forces serve fourteen different missions, continuing their multidimensional efforts in different areas. The peacekeeping field has always been dynamic and changed due to new challenges. It means that time flies, and the environment in which we are changing, UN Peacekeeping Missions, change itself too.

Cyprus Issue has been an issue of the international system since 1955. It became an issue with the first strike of Ethniki Organosis Kyprion Agoniston-National Organization of Cypriot Fighters (EOKA) to British rulers and continued with Greek Cypriots and their Turkish Cypriot neighbours [4]. After that long and bloody campaign led by Greek Cypriots British gave independence to Cyprus under a constitution which prohibited amendments, granted blocking power in important governmental matters to the minority Turkish Cypriot community [5]. The Treaty of Guarantee is one of the most important parts of this constitution. If the necessary conditions occur for parties, the treatment permits to an intervention. When the calendar showed us 1963, the first president of the Republic of Cyprus Greek Orthodox Archbishop Makarios, proposed such amendments, which include reducing Turkish Cypriot political power and converting Cyprus into a more normal unitary state with majority rule and constitutional safeguards for minority rights. Both Turkish Cypriots and Türkiye stand against this idea, and the violence that became known as Bloody Christmas broke out in 1963 [6]. After 364 Turkish Cypriot were massacred, including the wife and three kids of a Turkish officer, UNSC took a decision (UNSC Resolution 186) to create and deploy peacekeeping forces on the island [7].

UN bases its legal existence on the island to UNSC Resolution 186. Because of the outbreak of inter-communal violence in the Republic of Cyprus, on March 1964, UNSC endorsed its Resolution 186 to establish an international force to reestablish peace on the island [8]. In addition to the existence of their necessity on the island, the UN, especially UNFICYP, has been one of the main actors in the Republic of Cyprus in terms of maintaining peace and security, maintenance and restoration of law and order [9]. Are they successful or a failure? The answer is still be discussed today. It is changing from person to person because expectations and perceptions change also from person to person. UNFICYP’s main aim is not enforcing peace, they were in there to help the parties implement their wish to maintain peace and thus depended for its success on the cooperation and pacific disposition of the two Cypriot communities and their outside backers [10]. In addition to that interpretation of the effectiveness of UNFICYP, one must focus on the mandate of the UNFICYP, which is stated in Resolution 186 [11]. According to Resolution 186, the mandate of UNFICYP is;

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

According to these conditions, the UN has been quite successful in normalization and partially successful in maintaining peace and order but has failed in preventing conflicts between communities from 1964 to 1974 [12]. If any conflict was blocked between those times, it happened thanks to Türkiye’s efforts. UNFICYP could not be effective in preventing conflicts because Greek Cypriots were one of their militarily supporters[13]. On the other hand, UNFICYP has been quite successful in normalization between Turkish & Greek Cypriots. They organized bi-communal events, festivals, concerts, and more and thanks to this kind of event, a peace song came out by both sides of Cypriots, and they came together [14]. It caused to soft transition process to times when before the conflicts happened.

Briefly, UN Peacekeeping Force began to work on the Palestine Issue in 1948, and it changed itself dependent on the changes and needs of the international system. Cyprus Issue is one of the system’s most critical cases, thus, UNFICYP works with its military personnel to prevent recurrent fighting. Even though they have had successes and failures and continued since 1964.

[1] (Usden & Juergenliemk, 2014)

[2] (Usden & Juergenliemk, 2014)

[3] (Usden & Juergenliemk, 2014)

[4] (Soydemi̇r, 2018)

[5] (James, 1989)

[6] (James, 1989)

[7] (Soydemi̇r, 2018)

[8] (186 (1964). Resolution of 4 March 1964, 1964)

[9] (Soydemi̇r, 2018)

[10] (Stegenga, 1970)

[11] (Soydemi̇r, 2018)

[12] (Soydemi̇r, 2018)

[13] (James, 1989)

[14] (Soydemi̇r, 2018)

Ümran Gözel
Ümran Gözel
She is a fourth year student of International Relations at Ankara Yildirim Beyazit University Faculty of Political Sciences. She is interested in Turkish Foreign Policy, Forein Policy Analysis, Peace & Conflict Studies and Cyprus Issue.