Turkish Cypriot leadership wants UNFICYP out

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The Turkish Cypriot leadership is playing hardball with the United Nations peacekeeping force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), which demands they either recognise the breakaway state or leave the north.

In an interview with Turkish daily Hurriyet, the head of the Turkish Cypriot foreign office, Tahsin Ertugruloglu, said that authorities in the Turkish-occupied north had given UNFICYP a month’s notice.

Ertugruloglu said Turkish Cypriot authorities have demanded that UNFICYP signs a military agreement with them, which will allow the UN to retain its presence in the north.

As he said, UN peacekeepers have two camps and one convergence point in the north.

He argued that the UN has only received permission from the Republic of Cyprus to set up its camps on the island, ignoring the Turkish Cypriots.

“Our hospitality is over; either they sign a military agreement with the ‘TRNC’, or they will have to leave,” he said.

Ertugruloglu told Hurriyet that he and Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar had informed the UN of their intentions to push for recognition of the breakaway state, which only Turkey recognises.

They had informed UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at a meeting on the sidelines of the UN general assembly in New York last month.

Ertugruloglu said that at the meeting, the UN had presented the Turkish Cypriot side with the draft of the agreement over the status of forces (SOFA) on the island.

He claimed that the UN had committed to rethinking the draft and would get back to them within a month.

“We decided to give them another month.

“As the TRNC, we are clear.

“It is not the Greek Cypriot government who will approve of your mission in the north. It is us.

“We were hospitable all these years, but this is now over.”

Ertugruloglu warned the UN that if they returned a negative answer to their request, they “will not hesitate to take further action”, adding that since 1974 the Turkish Cypriot community has been living in safety provided by the Turkish army.

UNFICYP’s presence on the island is dictated by a mandate issued by the UN Security Council, which is renewed every six months at the end of January and July.

Established in 1964, UNFICYP is one of the longest-running UN Peacekeeping missions.

Cyprus has been divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion, with the UN in charge of keeping the peace and patrolling the buffer zone dividing the island.

Numerous rounds of peace talks under UN auspices failed to yield results; the last was at Crans-Montana, Switzerland, in July 2017.