He will continue to encourage the two leaders to be open to mutually acceptable modalities for dialogue as this remains crucial for finding a way forward, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said in his report on his mission of good offices in Cyprus.
In his report on the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), he refers to a significant increase in the number and severity of military violations as regards the buffer zone and the ceasefire lines.
The two reports, that cover developments from 13 June to 12 December 2023, were released on January 10, 2024 as official documents of the UN Security Council.
Guterres, in his good offices report, notes that, while the underlying positions of the parties on the peace process remain far apart, he will continue to encourage the two leaders to be open to mutually acceptable modalities for dialogue at their level, “as I believe this remains crucial for finding a way forward”. Meaningful initiatives or gestures are also critical for creating momentum towards dialogue and building trust, he notes.
The coming reporting period will mark several sobering anniversaries related to Cyprus, including the sixtieth anniversary of the United Nations peacekeeping and good offices activities in Cyprus, he said. The UNSG notes that the United Nations remains steadfast in its commitment to a peaceful resolution of the Cyprus issue, but adds that, “it becomes clearer with every passing year that the divide between the sides is growing, gradually eroding the prospects of finding a mutually acceptable political settlement.”
Guterres is encouraging the two leaders and their representatives to discuss, agree and implement mutually acceptable confidence-building measures that can contribute to an environment more conducive to a settlement.
He also notes that he has repeatedly stressed the importance of the parties refraining from taking unilateral action both in and adjacent to the buffer zone that could raise tensions, while also calling upon all parties to engage in dialogue to resolve their differences.
He reiterates his concern over developments in the fenced-off area of Varosha and notes that the position of the UN on Varosha remains unchanged, while recalling the decisions of the Security Council on the matter, notably its resolutions 550 (1984) and 789 (1992). Guterres underscores the importance of adhering fully to those resolutions.
The UNSG encourages all the guarantor powers to urge the two leaders in Cyprus to engage in dialogue to seek a mutually acceptable way forward on the Cyprus issue and urges the parties to make sincere efforts towards exploring options for sustainable energy cooperation in and around the island that may benefit all parties, and refrain from taking action that could increase tensions.
In his report on UNFICYP, the Secretary-General notes that, despite ongoing engagement by the mission at the political and military levels, the trend towards the increased militarisation of the buffer zone and the ceasefire lines became more pronounced during the reporting period, with an increase in military violations and in their severity. As at 30 November, the report said, the mission observed a total of 302 military violations by both sides, of which 159 were considered serious, as they involved permanent constructions, and 60 involved moves forward, challenging the ceasefire lines. Tensions around disputed areas also soared, and unauthorised military construction inside or close to the buffer zone persisted, it adds.
According to the report, UNFICYP also noted a “concerning trend” of repeated “move forward” violations by Turkish Forces, including at times with weapons, in and around Nicosia, “in what appears to be a deliberate policy of challenges to the northern ceasefire line and to the status quo of the buffer zone in contested areas”.
As regards the incidents in the buffer zone of Agios Dometios in the Nicosia district, it notes that, this trend of “move forward” violations and claims to parts of the buffer zone, was notably observed around an abandoned house in the buffer zone known as “Maria’s House”, adjacent to a Greek Cypriot residential area in Nicosia. From August to November, 43 move forward violations by Turkish Forces were recorded, it said.
“The significant increase in the number and severity of military violations on the island during the reporting period is a major concern for the prospects of a peaceful resolution of the Cyprus problem”, Guterres said. “The increased violations on both sides of the buffer zone, the encroachment into the buffer zone of both military and civilian constructions and the provocative effect of unilateral actions only heightens tensions and deepens the mutual distrust”, he adds.
On the incidents in Pyla, in the Larnaca district, he notes that, after reaching a crisis point in August, a mutually acceptable way forward was found, as a result of discussions led by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Cyprus and with the support of the international community, including the guarantor powers. “Challenges have arisen in implementation and will continue to require constructive engagement by both sides”, Guterres said, while also condemning the assaults against peacekeepers in Pyla on 18 August. “The safety and security of peacekeepers remains the utmost priority for the United Nations and cannot be compromised”, he said.
The report of the Secretary-General on his mission of good offices in Cyprus, also includes written updates by the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot.
In his own update, President of the Republic, Nikos Christodoulides, notes that he has undertaken tangible steps to facilitate the efforts of the UN Secretary General and has provided his consent for the appointment of an Envoy, while he has undertaken initiatives and repeatedly proposed meetings with the Turkish Cypriot leader, Ersin Tatar, in Cyprus as well as in New York last September. He said he continues to look forward to his positive response.
He also referred to his position on an enhanced role on behalf of the European Union, in the effort to resume negotiations and once the negotiations have resumed under UN auspices.
President Christodoulides deplores that the Greek Cypriot sides’ “determined and continuous efforts”, were obstructed by delaying tactics on behalf of the Turkish side, as manifested through the refusal of the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community to take part in a meeting with him and the UNSG in New York last September, and the Turkish side’s “procrastination” on the issue of the appointment of an Envoy. At the same time, he adds, “our efforts continue to be impeded by the policy of the Turkish side to refuse to uphold their commitment to the agreed basis of a solution of bizonal, bicommunal federation and to continue to advocate their positions for “sovereign equality” and “equal international status” which essentially constitute a call for the solidification of the division and of the illegal fait accompli through a “two-state” solution, contrary to international law and UN Security Council Resolutions”.
He also notes that the Turkish side has been proceeding unabated with their violations and illegal actions in Varosha, while there has been continuation and intensification of efforts in pursuit of the international upgrading of the illegal secessionist entity.
On the ground, “we continue to be faced with successive attempts of incursion into the buffer zone in a number of areas along the Turkish Forces ceasefire line”, he said.
He also referred to the incidents in Pyla and Agios Dometios and noted that at the same time, Turkey continues to upgrade its military capabilities and infrastructure in the occupied part of Cyprus, “a policy entailing grave risks for Cyprus but also for peace and stability in the wider region of the Eastern Mediterranean”.
President Christodoulides also said that during the reporting period, the Technical Committees continued to undertake a number of positive initiatives further building on their important work, but that, there have been cases of their work being hampered, “as a result of attempts by the Turkish Cypriot side, to drive the Technical Committees towards a path of becoming vehicles for the promotion of a model of cooperation between ‘separate administrations’ and eventually ‘separate states’”.
In his own written update, Turkish Cypriot leader, Ersin Tatar, reiterated his position on a two-state solution.
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.