UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has recommended that the Security Council extends UNFICYP’s mandate until January 31, 2020 in recognition of its continued contribution to the maintenance of peace and stability.
On the effort for the resumption of Cyprus reunification talks the UN SG reiterates his “call to the parties to engage in the current consultations exercise constructively, creatively and with the necessary urgency.”
“The parties should redouble their efforts to restore full-fledged negotiations and their engagement should be infused with a sense of purpose and determination to reach a successful end within a foreseeable horizon,” he stresses.
“Continued violations and low-level tensions during the period under review demonstrate how UNFICYP, through its monitoring, engagement and liaison, continues to play an indispensable role in preventing escalation,” Guterres writes in his report on UNFICYP.
I am concerned, he notes, “that pending a full-fledged resumption of the Cyprus talks, violations of the military status quo will continue, posing a potential threat to security and stability in the buffer zone and beyond.”
“Against this background, the continued presence of UNFICYP remains essential to report and address violations in accordance with its mandate, prevent tensions, contribute to the creation of conditions conducive to a political settlement,” he adds.
“In recognition of the continued contribution by UNFICYP to the maintenance of peace and stability, I therefore recommend that the Security Council extends the mission’s mandate until 31 January 2020,” Guterres says.
The UN SG welcomes the Security Council’s call to report on “how United Nations activities on Cyprus can be best configured to advance political progress while preserving stability”. This request, he notes, “has served as an important reminder that even in long standing peace operations such as UNFICYP, there remains scope for improvement and adjustments.”
In line with the Action for Peacekeeping Initiative, he continues, “I am committed to ensuring the highest-level of peacekeeping performance.”
“I am also cognizant of the limited scope for manoeuvre in a lean mission such as UNFICYP, I will nonetheless continue to strive towards ever-greater efficiency and effectiveness in UNFICYP,” he says.
Guterres also recalls that UN senior official Jane Holl Lute “continued her consultations on my behalf aimed at facilitating agreement on the terms of reference that would constitute a consensus starting point for a possible negotiated conclusion to the Cyprus issue.”
On the Cyprus issue, the UN SG says, “despite the notable progress on confidence-building measures and initial engagement on ‘mechanisms’, the mood surrounding the peace process did not improve, with the two sides continuing to disagree over substance and blaming the other for the persisting stalemate.”
In the absence of negotiations, “skepticism remained widespread and interest in and hope for the peace process remained low,” he finds.
“In spite of the Security Council’s call in resolution 2453 (2019) on both leaders to “improve the public atmosphere for negotiation (…) by preparing the communities for a settlement, and (…) delivering more constructive and harmonized messages” few if any concerted efforts were noted in that direction,” he points out.
Guterres also refers to recent polling commissioned by the United Nations and European Union-financed World Bank surveys which “suggest that public expectations about a resumption of the talks and prospects for a settlement remain low.”
“As I noted in my last report on my good offices mission, there is consensus that the status quo, that is, lack of a resolution to the Cyprus issue, is not sustainable. There is also widespread support for the view that a horizon of an endless process without results lies behind us, not before us,” he says.
According to Guterres developments in the region have also not contributed to a positive atmosphere for a resumption of talks.
“In a concerning development, tensions over hydrocarbons continued to grow, with few prospects of subsiding in the near or medium term,” he says.
Meanwhile, he adds, “there continued to be a particularly dense concentration of various national and joint naval forces and military, search and rescue and other exercises in the Eastern Mediterranean, including around Cyprus.”
The UN SG continues “to monitor developments related to hydrocarbons closely and with concern.”
“I have repeatedly stressed that the natural resources found in and around Cyprus should benefit both communities and constitute a strong incentive for all parties to find a mutually acceptable and durable solution to the Cyprus problem,” he notes.
Bearing in mind that all parties have expressed their commitment to this objective, he reiterates his “call for serious efforts to avoid any further escalation and to defuse tensions.”
At the same time he stresses “once again the importance for the sides to respect UNFICYP’s mandated authority.”
He points out that “the mission’s mandate requires reconciling security considerations and the maintenance of the military status quo with facilitating reasonable civilian activities within the buffer zone, particularly when livelihoods depend on it.”
“In order to achieve this delicate balance and maintain calm and stability, UNFICYP must be allowed to exercise its mandated authority impartially, based on carefully defined criteria, most importantly security,” he says.
Guterres also notes that the mission’s efforts to step up engagement with both opposing forces “will continue, as should commitment on the part of the opposing forces to maintain a regular dialogue with UNFICYP at all levels.”
“When misunderstandings and tensions arise, unilateral actions must be avoided and existing liaison mechanisms with UNFICYP taken full advantage of,” he says.
Restrictions on UNFICYP’s freedom of movement imposed in Strovilia and elsewhere, he adds, must be lifted immediately and permanently and the mission’s ability to patrol and carry out other mandated activities fully restored.”
The United Nations, he says, “continues to hold the Government of Turkey responsible for the status quo in Varosha.”
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third. Repeated rounds of UN-led peace talks have so far failed to yield results. The last round of negotiations, in the summer of 2017, at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana ended inconclusively.
Comprising military and civilian personnel from various contributing countries, UNFICYP arrived in Cyprus in March 1964 after intercommunal fighting broke out. The mandate of the force is renewed every six months by the UN Security Council.