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UNFICYP begins downsizing
2005-02-01 11:08:43

Nicosia, Feb 1 (CNA) -- United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) military personnel began leaving the island as part of the annual rotations taking place in the force, but will not be replaced in an effort to downsize the mission following a Security Council decision.

UNFICYP Spokesman Brian Kelly told CNA today that the “reason that there has been such movement of troops in the last couple of days and over the last month is that we are at the point in the peacekeeping annual schedule when rotations take place”.

In this instance, however, “it is a rotation with a difference, meaning those leaving will not be replaced as part of that downsizing”, he added.

The Security Council accepted the Secretary-General’s recommendations last October that a review be carried out on the UN mission in Cyprus and on the strength of that review, the decision was taken that the mission would be reduced in size from 1230 to 860 peacekeepers.

“As a result of these rotations the force is now at the strength of approximately 900 peacekeepers and by the end of March or early April we will be at 860 which is the level we were aiming at”, Kelly added.

All major troop-contributing countries are set to reduce their contingents by 30 per cent.

Kelly added that given there has been no review of the mission since 1993 and that there have been no major incidents along the buffer zone since 1996, “the review’s assessment of the situation was that the mandate of responsibility of the mission could be carried out with fewer numbers augmented by greater mobility, more patrols and the use of new technology”.

Britain, Argentina and Slovakia maintain the largest contingents with troops.

UNFICYP arrived in Cyprus in March 1964. It is the longest UN peace-keeping operation 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.

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