UN not planning to leave Ledra Palace

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UN spokesperson Aleem Siddique said there are no plans to abandon Ledra Palace barracks by the peacekeeping force in Cyprus (UNFICYP).

He told CNA there was no possibility of soon returning the former hotel in the Nicosia buffer zone to its owners — the Church of Cyprus.

The issue was discussed on Thursday during a meeting of President Nikos Christodoulides with Archbishop Georgios in the presence of Foreign Minister Constantinos Kombos.

Siddique said: “Ledra Palace remains imperative for UNFICYP operations inside the UN buffer zone.”

He added: “The site is used every day for mission-critical activities in addition to a wide range of bicommunal events and activities.”

“There are no plans to abandon this location.”

If UNFICYP stopped using the Nicosia landmark as a barracks for its personnel, the Cyprus Church would be eyeing the development of the historic Ledra Palace Hotel into an events venue.

Ledra Palace has been used by the United Nations since 1974 to accommodate military personnel and constitutes the headquarters for the Mission’s Sector Two.

Archbishop Georgios told Phileleftheros daily earlier this month the Church was in talks with UNFICYP to regain custody of the building.

But this seems to have been shelved after talks with the government.

The hotel was designed by the German Jewish architect Benjamin Gunsberg.

It was built between 1947 and 1949 by Cyprus Hotels Limited for approximately £240,000 (Cyprus Pounds) on what was then called King Edward VII Street, renamed in 1962 to Markos Drakos Avenue.

When the hotel opened on 8 October 1949, it had 94 bedrooms and 150 beds, officially rated as deluxe.

Wear and tear over seven decades necessitated costly maintenance to house UN peacekeepers in the buffer zone.

The government has spent millions on maintaining the building. One refurbishment cost the state €2 million.

Due to poor upkeep, UN peacekeepers had to vacate the hotel’s upper floors.