Australian Federal Police mark 60 years of peacekeeping in Cyprus

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The AFP is today (Monday 4 March, 2024) celebrating its involvement in the 60th anniversary of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP).

Established in 1964, UNFICYP was the first mission to include Australian police, with the first contingent arriving in May as part of an effort to prevent further fighting between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities.

AFP Superintendent Jason Byrnes served in Cyprus as part of the 62nd contingent and remembered his experience when he first arrived as challenging but rewarding.

60th anniversary of the United Nations Peacekeeping operations in Cyprus. Photo: AFP.
60th anniversary of the United Nations Peacekeeping operations in Cyprus. Photo: AFP.
Established in 1964, UNFICYP was the first mission to include Australian police, with the first contingent arriving in May as part of an effort to prevent further fighting between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities.
Established in 1964, UNFICYP was the first mission to include Australian police. Photo: AFP.
60th anniversary of the United Nations Peacekeeping operations in Cyprus. Photo: AFP.
Peacekeeping operations in Cyprus. Photo: AFP.

“When I arrived in Cyprus, the landscape between the Larnaca Airport and the capital, Nicosia, was almost lunar-like in terms of lack of vegetation and baron dirt and rocks. It was quite impressive to drive along those highways,” Superintendent Byrnes said.

“While I spent most of my time in Nicosia, I also spent a month in Pyla, the last bi-communal village where both Greek and Turkish Cypriots coexisted. It was a very complex and dynamic atmosphere with political and racial undertones.

“Pyla was inside the buffer zone surrounded by landmines, with Greek and Turkish Cypriots living in the same village. There was a Greek Cypriot Mayor and a Turkish Cypriot Mayor.

60th anniversary of the United Nations Peacekeeping operations in Cyprus. Photo: AFP.
60th anniversary of the United Nations Peacekeeping operations in Cyprus. Photo: AFP.
60th anniversary of the United Nations Peacekeeping operations in Cyprus. Photo: AFP.
AFP in Cyprus. Photo: AFP.
60th anniversary of the United Nations Peacekeeping operations in Cyprus.

“We had to make sure if one of the police forces from either side wanted to enter the village that the other side was aware of it and respected each other’s laws.”

60th anniversary of the United Nations Peacekeeping operations in Cyprus. Photo: AFP.
60th anniversary of the United Nations Peacekeeping operations in Cyprus. Photo: AFP.

Cyprus is one of the world’s longest running peacekeeping missions which saw 111 Australian contingents, with more than 1,600 Australian police officers serving in the mission. While the majority of police were from the AFP and its predecessor agencies, ACT Policing and the Commonwealth Police, several hundred state and territory police also served, particularly before 1976. 

Located in towns and cities across Cyprus, police worked in collaboration with UNFICYP to monitor ceasefire lines, conduct patrols, and engage in community policing efforts aimed at fostering trust and cooperation between the divided communities.

Thousands of Australian police have gone on to serve in peacekeeping and capacity building missions across world in countries including Timor Leste, Haiti, Mozambique, Afghanistan, Solomon Islands, Cambodia, Sudan, Papua New Guinea.

With expertise in community policing and conflict resolution, Australian police officers have been essential in supporting efforts to foster stability and cooperation across the country.

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