The passage of time continues to complicate efforts to find a mutually acceptable solution in Cyprus, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says in a report on his mission of good offices in Cyprus, submitted to the Security Council on developments in the Cyprus issue from June 19, 2021 until December 15, 2021.

“I note with concern that, during this recent period, the positions of the communities appear to have become more entrenched and wider apart”, the head of the UN points out, who notes that he remains guided by relevant Security Council resolutions that have established United Nations parameters.

The UN Secretary-General urges the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders and their representatives to work together on confidence-building measures and to continue revitalizing the work of the technical committees so that they can fulfil their potential in positively affecting the daily lives of Cypriots, also in accordance with Security Council resolution 2587 (2021).

“I urge the leaders and their representatives to move beyond present challenges, including those related to terminology and, instead, provide practical and political support and guidance to all the committees with a view to enabling the full reinvigoration of their work. These mechanisms of dialogue and rapprochement are of particular importance and can, in the absence of fully-fledged negotiations rekindle hope among the population that progress between the parties can indeed still be made”, he also says.

Guterres furthermore notes that the continued absence of substantive negotiations and the positioning of the sides regarding the basis of a settlement in Cyprus has begun to affect the work of the technical committees.

“Despite the calls by the Security Council for the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders to provide the necessary political support and overall guidance to free the technical committees from obstructions to their work and enable them to function effectively, decisions on activities and projects proposed by the committees, in some cases, began to mirror the lack of common ground on the way forward with respect to the peace talks”.

The Secretary-General also points out that there is a risk that the deepening of disparities between the two economies may start eroding the basis for important convergences achieved in the past, calling for more concerted efforts to tackle the economic fallout from the pandemic and other factors, while also promoting greater economic ties and increased intra-island trade. “It is important that risks associated with the two economies further drifting apart be understood and acknowledged so that appropriate mitigating measures can be devised”, he notes.

He also reiterates his concern over developments in the fenced-off area of Varosha, saying that the position of the United Nations on Varosha remains unchanged. He recalls the statements by the President of the Security Council on the matter, as well as relevant Council resolutions, notably resolutions 550 (1984) and 789 (1992), and he underscores the importance of adhering fully to those resolutions.

He also expresses his concerned about the rising tensions in and around Cyprus and the broader Eastern Mediterranean region, stressing again that natural resources in and around Cyprus should benefit both communities and constitute a strong incentive for the parties to find a mutually acceptable and durable solution to the Cyprus problem. He urges restraint by all parties and calls for serious effort to be made to defuse tensions.

“I encourage the leaders to look to the future with pragmatism. As can be seen from the written updates annexed to this report, the positions of the sides remain far apart. A continued lack of political progress has significant implications for all Cypriots”, the head of the international organisation notes. He calls on all parties to refrain from any unhelpful actions and actively seek solutions through dialogue.

“Without decisive action, continuing dynamics in and around Cyprus and electoral timelines could render future efforts to reach a mutually agreeable settlement to the Cyprus issue unattainable. The parties’ display of flexibility and firm political will is of paramount importance”, he says. He also urges the parties to engage constructively on finding and building common ground with a view towards resumption of meaningful peace talks. He adds that a United Nations envoy to lead this engagement could provide critical support in this respect.

He also stresses the importance of all Cypriots engaging actively in shaping the future of the island and call on the guarantor powers to do their utmost to support efforts to ultimately bring the Cyprus issue to a settlement and bring peace and prosperity to all Cypriots.

The SG welcomes the regular exchange of epidemiological information and coordination within the Technical Committee on Health on COVID-19 measures. However, he notes that despite the harmonization of measures and adjustments of restrictions at the crossing points, important challenges remain, including regarding the proportional transfer of European Union approved vaccines.

“While discussions are ongoing to provide Turkish Cypriots full and equal access to the European Union Digital COVID Certificate, progress has been slow, and more efforts are needed as a matter of priority”, he says.

Furthermore he encourages the parties to follow international best practice on the participation of women at decision-making levels in conflict resolution and peace processes as highlighted in consecutive Security Council resolutions since the adoption of resolution 1325 (2000) and urges the parties to ensure the inclusion of at least 30 per cent women in any of their future delegations to talks as well as in other bodies related to the talks and to explore ways to ensure women’s effective participation.

He also echoes the Security Council’s support for greater civic engagement and trust building and urge the leaders to encourage contact and cooperation more explicitly between the two communities. “The leaders should aim for a more inclusive peace process, as per recent international best practice, and should involve under-represented groups, including women, minorities, youth, and persons with disabilities, in discussions pertaining to the Cyprus problem and in any resumed peace talks”, he says.

Finally he notes that while the draft recommendations were welcomed by the two leaders in their essence, “agreement on a joint action plan in line with the request of the Council was unfortunately not reached, with both sides submitting their own version of the plan on 15 December”.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37% of its territory. Numerous rounds of talks under the UN aegis to reunite the island under a federal roof failed to yield results.

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