UNSCOB and Its Evolution

  September 22, 2021   Read time 4 min
UNSCOB and Its Evolution
In the autumn of 1948 the General Assembly debated the activities of UNSCOB. The communist delegations complained that the Committee's report was based on rumour or false accounts deliberately circulated by the Greek Government.

Its staff were partly US nationals who sought to promote US interests by its activity. The majority, however, felt that the Committee had played a significant part in observing and deterring hostile action on the Greek border. But even among Western delegations there was some concern that the emphasis of the Committee's work was too much on the attribution of blame for incidents rather than on genuine conciliation between the countries concerned. Australia, Pakistan and Brazil, all members of the Committee, expressed this viewpoint. This affected the Assembly's action. The Committee's work was endorsed and its mandate renewed, but at the same time an Australian resolution was carried calling for a meeting of representatives of the countries concerned, together with the UN Secretary-General, the president of the Assembly and other UN officers, to seek a political settlement.

Meetings on these lines took place in Paris in November and December. But there was little meeting of minds. Greece again complained of border violations and assistance to rebels by the others. The others complained of the repressive policies of Greece. In particular, the communist countries demanded from Greece a repudiation of expansionist ambitions and a recognition of her present frontier with Albania. This Greece consistently refused to give, claiming that the frontier remained to be settled through a peace treaty. So Dr Evatt, the president of the Assembly, had to report that attempts at mediation had failed, at least for the moment. They were renewed briefly the following year with a broader representation. This time representatives of the United States, Britain and the Soviet Union took part, as well as those of the Balkan countries and the UN officers. But the result was the same. With the failure of these meetings, all attempts by the UN at mediation, as opposed to observation, came to an end.

During 1949 a major change affected the Greek situation, one that ultimately proved crucial. This was the break between Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union. Very shortly after, Yugoslavia decided to reduce her commitment to the guerrillas in Greece. She formally closed her borders with Greece and stopped altogether the traffic of guerrillas between Greece and Yugoslavia. This change was reflected in the activity and reports of UNSCOB. During 1949 it reported fewer violations. While Yugoslavia had in the early part ofthat year still been aiding the rebels, this had subsequently abated and might now have ceased. But Albania and Bulgaria had continued to give assistance to the guerrilla movement's attempts to overthrow the Greek Government and had now been joined by Romania in this effort. The 1949 Assembly declared that this activity was contrary to the Charter and a threat to the peace; if it went on it would justify a special meeting of the Assembly. This was perhaps the toughest language yet used by the Assembly about any international situation, and partly reflected the intensification of the cold war in the previous year. Ironically, it came at a time when, with the closing of the Yugoslav border, the Greek civil war was rapidly coming to an end.

But UNSCOB remained in existence for another two years. In 1950 its reports were briefer and rather less severely worded than before. It noted the reduction in the scale of fighting and infiltration. But it still concluded that there remained a threat to Greece's political independence; and the Assembly accordingly kept it in existence for a further year. In the following year the incidents declined to a trickle. But the Committee's report still held that, though changed in character, a threat to Greece continued. There had been a decline in guerrilla activity and a withdrawal of forces over the borders, but the number of countries said to be assisting rebel activity had increased yet again, now including Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia. Yugoslavia, now finally divorced from the Soviet camp, was omitted altogether. So, it was said, UN vigilance in the area must be maintained.

By this time, however, a majority in the Assembly recognised that the Committee's task was done. To renew it yet again would be a purely political act. It was therefore decided to discontinue UNSCOB, and in its place to set up a Balkan sub-committee of the recently established Peace Observation Commission (p. 000 below). This sub-committee was largely inactive. In January of the following year, at the request of Greece, it undertook observations of the Greek borders with Bulgaria and with Albania. But it had little of substance to report, and it made no recommendations to the Peace Observation Committee. In 1954 it was disbanded altogether. The Greek episode was at an end.