UNFICYP to reduce numbers
Nicosia, Jan 28 (CNA) -- UN peace-keeping force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) personnel will begin leaving the island, following a review of the force, and by late March or early April this year it will be reduced to 860 from the current 1,230 UNFICYP spokesman Brian Kelly told CNA today.
The reduction in numbers is part of the troop cuts as these were put forward by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan last September. The Security Council has agreed to these proposals.
Kelly said that there would be fewer but more mobile troops and said that a number of manned observation posts will no longer be in use.
''This restructuring reflects the outcome of a belated but necessary review of the force which has not taken place since 1993,'' he added.
Kelly said that by the end of January UNFICYP will number around 900 and then more personnel will leave later on in the year.
All major troop contributing countries are set to reduce their contingents by 30 per cent, including 40 military observers and liaison officers while UN civilian police will remain at 69.
Britain, Argentina and Slovakia maintain the largest contingents with 412 troops, 403 and 275 respectively.
UNFICYP arrived in Cyprus in March 1964. It is the longest UN peace-keeping opeartion in the world.
Turkish troops have been occupying 37 per cent of Cyprus territory since 1974 in violation of repeated UN resolutions calling for their withdrawal.