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UN Security Council Extends Cyprus Peacekeeping Mission - 2003-06-12

The Security Council has extended the U.N peacekeeping mission in Cyprus for six months and added 34 police officers to deal with the increasing travel between the Greek and Turkish communities on the island.

The new police officers will be added to the U.N. team in Cyprus, which currently employs more than 1,200 people. This small addition to the force was called as a result of increased workload since the easing of travel restrictions on the island.

The U.N. force has a 35-member international police contingent, consisting mainly of officers from Ireland and Australia.

Cyprus has been split into a Greek-controlled south and a Turkish-controlled north since an invasion by Turkey in 1974. The breakaway Turkish Cypriot state is recognized only by Turkey, which keeps a force of 40,000 troops there.

In mid-April, the Turkish Cypriot regime opened the border to Greek Cypriots for the first time since the Turkish invasion. This development has meant the work shifts have been increased for the existing U.N. force that is present at many of the crossing points.

"Certainly, we have been working very much at full stretch over the last year or two, and that work grew commensurately with the opening of the crossing point on April 23," said U.N. spokesman in Cyprus Brian Kelly, who emphasizes that the increase to the force is essential. "Their work has really jumped quite phenomenally over the past few months," he added.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has welcomed the easing of travel restrictions between the two communities, although he says it is still no substitute for a political settlement on the island. The United Nations has been in Cyprus since 1963, when it was called on during a period of violence between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots.