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Op TOSCA: Royal Lancers Peacekeeping In Cyprus

UK troops have been on UN duty since 1964.

Royal Lancers

Troops from the Queen Elizabeths' Own Royal Lancers have been getting to grips with peacekeeping duties as part of one of the longest running United Nations (UN) missions.

Operation TOSCA is the British contribution to a multinational force that has been in place since 1974.

Back then, Cyprus was divided into a Turkish-speaking north and a Greek-speaking south, when Turkey invaded after a coup by Cypriots who supported uniting the island with Greece.

 

The UN Peacekeeping Force was established in 1964 to prevent further fighting between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities.

The Royal Lancers are the latest UK unit to take on a six-month tour of peacekeeping duties on the island.

British troops took over responsibility for the central part of the buffer zone from Canadian forces in 1993. This area includes the city of Nicosia. 

Trooper Alex Forest is new to operational tours and has been surprised at how the mayhem of the past is still present within the abandoned buildings:

 "You can definitely tell that people were scared - really expensive cars have been left here because the people didn't know what the war was bringing."

Abandoned shops Cyprus buffer zone

The Royal Lancers are reconnaissance specialists and their Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Searby, thinks those skills help them analyse situations that could impact on the future of the island:

"They go out on a daily basis and look for changes in the buffer zone that may indicate something on one side is changing for a particular reason."

UN Buffer Zone in Cyprus
Duties for the UN Peacekeeping Force include monitoring cease-fire lines and maintaining a buffer zone.

Negotiations between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities over the decades have failed, and the most recent talks collapsed last July.

The UN Security Council has called on both sides to revive reunification talks, following the appointment of a new UN Envoy for Cyprus this month.

The UN have also extended the mandate of the Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus until the end of January 2019.