Cyprus emerged from the British Empire in 1960. Prior to independence, a series of treaties established a consociational democracy in which power was shared between the island’s Greek and Turkish communities and provided a mandate for military personnel from Greece, Turkey, and the UK to be stationed in certain areas of Cyprus.1 However, following independence, leaders from each community began to clash over constitutional reform and representation in state institutions. By December 1963, armed confrontations were erupting between militias. To prevent the conflict from escalating further, the British, Greek, and Turkish troops formed a joint peacekeeping force and patrolled the disengagement line once a ceasefire was negotiated at the end of the month, however the ensuing talks in London failed to resolve the crisis.2 As a result, the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) was established in March 1964.3 Led by the British troops already in Cyprus, UNFICYP was deployed as an interpositionary force, physically separating the two communities while talks were held between the respective political leaderships.4
Efforts to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict failed. Following an attempted coup d’état in Greek Cyprus in July 1974, the Government of Turkey occupied the north of the island in a major military operation. The UN Security Council called for a ceasefire following the initial offensive, and although clashes continued in certain areas, UNFICYP was able to gradually reduce the fighting until, on 16 August 1974, the ceasefire finally came into force.5 This allowed UNFICYP to document the positions held by each military as it verified the ceasefire. In the absence of a negotiated boundary, the intelligence gathered by the peacekeepers at this time serves as the basis for demarcation to this day.6 Since 1974, the Mission has patrolled the ceasefire line, monitored the military situation, and facilitated dialogue between the belligerents. In 1989, UNFICYP personnel convinced both sides to withdraw their forces from the frontlines in a significant act of de-escalation.7 UNFICYP has been gradually reduced in size since the 1980s but remains active at the time of writing. The Mission played a key role in limiting the 1974 conflict and has ensured that intercommunal violence has not been repeated on the island for 56 years.