There have been some indications that finally there may be some real movement on the question of appointing a United Nations envoy, UNSG Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus, Colin Stewart said on Friday addressing the 4th Cyprus Forum in Nicosia. He also expressed optimism that, very soon, a consensus would be reached on the way forward as regards the Pyla issue.

In his key note speech, Stewart also said that leaving part of the island with no choice but to rely on a third country for everything only deepens the separation and undermines the chances of a mutually-acceptable settlement the Cyprus issue.

He also called for the resumption of the “crucial” bicommunal work on education as a matter of priority.

Stewart said that, for most of this past year, there has not been much tangible change with respect to the Cyprus issue, but that very recently, “we have started to see some hopeful signs”, and he specifically referred to three such signs.

He said that the crisis last month in Pyla “was a serious one” since, for the first time in many years there was an assault on UN peacekeepers, but that, out of this crisis, in the end cooler heads prevailed, and ultimately space was created for serious discussions with both sides to find a way to address everyone’s concerns and to come up with a formula that would be a positive outcome for all.

Stewart noted that this was not easy and that there is a deep distrust between the two sides that causes each side to question the motive behind every concern raised by the other, “but we did in fact succeed in having very constructive dialogue, and I am optimistic that we will very soon have a consensus on the way forward.”

He said that confronting a difficult issue such as Pyla, and having the two sides agree to sit down – each side with the UN – seek common ground, “and actually make substantial progress, that’s at least a bit of a hopeful sign for Cyprus.” Ultimately, he added, this was exactly what will be required to reach any settlement of the Cyprus issue, grappling with difficult issues, taking a constructive approach, and making compromises. “Turning a negative into a positive in Pyla will build a bit of confidence, and greater mutual trust and confidence is a necessary step on the path to a comprehensive settlement”, he added.

The second sign, he referred to, was that there have been some indications that, “finally there may be some real movement on the question of appointing a United Nations envoy”. That would be a real game-changer, he said, adding that the road back to negotiations remains a long and convoluted one, but having a dedicated envoy to begin a sustained conversation would be a crucial first step.

As a third positive sign, he mentioned “the extraordinary” bicommunal event last week held jointly “between the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot municipalities of Famagusta”. He noted that this “wonderful and spontaneous outpouring of intercommunal friendship and fraternity was a poignant reminder that ordinary Cypriots from both communities want a resolution.”

Stewart said that these were signs he calls “hopeful”, and that contrast sharply with the situation of recent years while they suggest that we may now be on the verge of a course reversal. “If my optimism is well-founded, and we start to see positive movement soon, that will certainly be welcome news”, he said.

He also noted that, next year, the UN peacekeeping mission in Cyprus, UNFICYP, and the Secretary-General’s good offices, will be marking 60 years in Cyprus. He said that for 60 years, the UN has been trying to keep the peace and to help the parties arrive at a resolution to the Cyprus Problem. “A resolution that is long, long overdue”, he noted.

The UN official also referred to the need for confidence-building measures or gestures that strengthen intra-island integration, while also praised the work of the 12 Technical Committees established by the leaders to improve the livelihoods of all Cypriots, he said.

He also said that, roadblocks facing the Technical Committee on Education have effectively suspended the important work that was being done in this committee, noting that, if there is to be any hope for a durable peaceful future for Cyprus, the crucial bicommunal work on education must resume as a matter of priority.

Cyprus News Agency is a communications sponsor of the Cyprus Forum.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. Repeated rounds of UN-led peace talks have so far failed to yield results. The latest round of negotiations, in July 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana ended inconclusively.

Members of the Security Council condemned on August 22, 2023, the incidents in the buffer zone, in the village of Pyla, in Larnaca district, with assaults against UN peacekeepers, reiterating their full support for UNFICYP.

A few days earlier, on August 18, 2023 Turkish Cypriots punched and kicked a group of international peacekeepers who obstructed crews illegally working on a road that would encroach on a U.N. controlled buffer zone

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