President Anastasiades speaks on UNFICYP statement

I do not comment on “unfortunate” interventions, Cyprus President says of UNFICYP statement

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UNFICYP is one of the longest-running UN Peacekeeping missions. It was set up in 1964 to prevent further fighting between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities on the island and bring about a return to normal conditions. The Mission’s responsibilities expanded in 1974, following a coup d’etat by elements favouring union with Greece and a subsequent military intervention by Turkey, whose troops established control over the northern part of the island. Since a de facto ceasefire in August 1974, UNFICYP has supervised the ceasefire lines; provided humanitarian assistance; and maintained a buffer zone between the Turkish and Turkish Cypriot forces in the north and the Greek Cypriot forces in the south. UNFICYP’s Chief of Mission also serves as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Cyprus and in that capacity leads efforts to assist the parties in reaching a comprehensive settlement. The ceasefire lines extend over 180 kilometers across the island. In the absence of a formal ceasefire agreement, UNFICYP’s 800-plus troops and 60-plus police officers deal with hundreds of incidents each year. UNFICYP also delivers humanitarian aid to Greek Cypriots and a small Maronite community living in the northern part of the island and it assists Turkish Cypriots living in the southern part of the island. UNFICYP supports the fullest possible resumption of normal civilian activity in the buffer zone, keeping in mind that this is still an area under permanent armed watch by military on both sides. To this end, it facilitates the resumption of farming in the buffer zone where safe, and assists both communities on matters related to the supply of electricity and water across the lines. The Mission is currently headed by Elizabeth Spehar of Canada, who is the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of Mission. The Mission’s work is based on four components that work together closely: the military, UN Police (UNPOL), the Civil Affairs Branch and Administration, which supports all activities. The Mission counts almost 1100 personnel. Since 1964, almost 186 UN personnel have lost their lives while serving in UNFICYP. The Security Council established UNFICYP through resolution 186 (1964) on 4 March 1964 and has renewed the Mission’s mandate for six-month terms since then. Attempts to solve the Cyprus conflict and reunify the island have so far been without result, although relations between north and south have improved over the years. Among other things, this led to the opening of several crossing points across the buffer zone, most notably across Ledra Street in old Nicosia on 3 April 2008.

Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades said on Friday that he would not wish to comment on “unfortunate” interventions, referring to a statement on Thursday by the UN peacekeeping force on the island, UNFICYP. President Anastasiades, who was replying to a journalist’s question on the matter at the Presidential Palace also noted at the same time that while there is a cooperation between the two communities, the government of the recognized Republic has the responsibility of decision making.

Replying to a question on the challenge of migratory flows he said that from 2015 until 2019 migratory flows in Cyprus have increased by 320% and that measures need to be taken to deal with the problem while at the same time respecting international law and the European acquis.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded and subsequently occupied its northern third. Several crossing points opened since April 2003, when the Turkish Cypriot regime lifted partially restrictions it had imposed on the free movement of people to and from the occupied areas. Last week the government announced the temporary suspension of operation of four crossing points for a week as a precaution against COVID-19.

The temporary suspension of operation was renewed until Monday yesterday. In a statement yesterday UNFICYP expressed concern by the ongoing disruption caused to people on both sides, following the decision to temporarily close four crossing points along the buffer zone.

Asked to comment UNFICYP’s statement President Anastasiades said that “I would not wish to comment on unfortunate interventions of the peacekeeping force which is called on to perform another role as part of its mission.”

Its mission, he added, “is the prevalence of peace which it has successfully achieved until today.”

“Interventions, which have to do with the policies of the sovereign country of the Republic of Cyprus, a UN-recognized state and EU member, I consider are unfortunate,” he reiterated.

President Anastasiades continued noting that “there is a cooperation between the two communities but the government of the recognized Republic has the responsibility for decision making,” adding that it is the government which decides and does not jointly decide with anyone else.

At the same time, he said that the decisions taken by the government do not overlook the safety of all the people of Cyprus, irrespective of community, ethnic or other forms of its composition.

I would like to believe, President Anastasiades added, “that we must all abide during situations of emergency with the World Health Organisation’s directions and the relevant EU bodies, and this is what the Cypriot government is doing.”

Migratory flows up by 320% between 2015 – 2019, measures must be taken

Asked about the immigration challenges Cyprus’ President replied that “it is well known that we are faced with a very serious problem as regards migratory flows, whether they be from warzones or whether they have to do with financial immigrants.”

Between 2015 and 2019, he noted, “Cyprus is presenting an increase of flows which reaches 320%.”

He further recalled that people who have been approved as deserving international protection, those who have applied and cases pending before the International Protection Administrative Court constitute 3.8% of the Greek Cypriot community’s population.

Recently, he added, an increased influx has been observed which is also a result of Ankara’s policies.

President Anastasiades pointed out that “we are obliged to take measures to deal with the problem, always respecting both international law and the European acquis.”

He also said that the first meeting of a ministerial committee on the matter took place today in the presence of Attorney General Costas Clerides which reviewed measures which could be taken, adding that on Tuesday after having also received political parties’ recommendations, decisions will be made in order to protect refugees but also the country’s best interests.

Asked about the fact that a hosting facility for asylum seekers seems to be overcrowded he replied that he does not wish to go into more detail but added that measures which will be announced will include matters to do with the facilities where asylum seekers are accommodated.

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