Australian police withdraw from Cyprus peacekeeping mission after 53 years

Australian police have marked their withdrawal from the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) after more than 53 years of service.

UNFICYP is the world's longest-running peacekeeping mission, and is focused on building and maintaining stability between the north and south of Cyprus.

Australia has contributed to UNFICYP since May 1964. A total of 111 contingents involving more than 1600 officers from all states and territories have served with UNFICYP.

Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin said Australian police have a proud history in Cyprus.

"We have made a positive contribution to support order and stability in Cyprus, and provide humanitarian assistance to people in need," Commissioner Colvin said.

"This mission provided an important foundation for Australia's footprint in international policing. We now have officers stationed in 31 countries as part of our international operations.

"Following our long-standing commitment in Cyprus, we will look to redeploy our resources to the Asia-Pacific region to enhance stability closer to home, and to address domestic security threats."

Australia's presence in Cyprus began when the first contingent of police officers arrived on the island on 26 May, 1964. There were 40 officers in total, including then-First Constable Ian Hardy. Mr Hardy, now 79, returned to Cyprus this week.

A ceremonial flag lowering took place at sunset in Cyprus yesterday to signify the conclusion of Australia's time with UNFICYP. The service was attended by senior police and dignitaries from Australia and Cyprus, and around 40 men and women who have served in past Australian contingents.

The families of the three Australian police officers killed in the service of peace in Cyprus also made the pilgrimage to Cyprus.

Sergeant Llewellyn Thomas, from South Australia Police, was involved in a car accident near Limassol and succumbed to his injuries on 26 July 1969. Inspector Patrick Hackett, from the NSW Police Force, was killed in a car accident near Stroumbi on 29 August 1971. Sergeant Ian Ward, also from the NSW Police Force, was killed on 12 November 1974, when the vehicle he was travelling in struck a landmine in the buffer zone between the north and south.

On Thursday, the Thomas, Hackett and Ward families attended the unveiling of a memorial dedicated to the memory of their loved ones. The limestone obelisk was hand-crafted by a local sculptor, and stands two metres tall next to St Columba's Church in the United Nations Protected Area in Nicosia.

AFP Inspector Bronwyn Carter, who is the final Australian Police Contingent Commander in Cyprus, said she felt privileged to have contributed to the important work of UNFICYP.

"Being part of a multicultural organisation dedicated to peace and harmony has been an extremely rewarding experience," Inspector Carter said.

"For the past five decades, we have been welcomed by all aspects of the community and we have excellent relationships with the Cypriot people. I am hopeful for the successful unification of Cyprus."

The AFP will fully withdraw from Cyprus by the end of June.


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