The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres invited the leaders, President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, given the disappointing outcome in Crans-Montana, to reflect deeply on the results and on the possible road ahead.
In a special reference included in the Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Operation in Cyprus (UNFICYP), Guterres notes that “as for the United Nations, the Organization’s role in the framework of the negotiations, as facilitator of the process, remains at the disposal of the parties.”
The draft of the Report was given to the members of the Security Council late on Monday. In the Report Guterres recommends that the Security Council extends the mandate of UNFICYP for six months, until 31 January 2018, at its current authorized strength.
The present report on the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) covers developments from 16 December 2016 to 22 June 2017 and it also includes the latest developments in the negotiations.
The UN SG commended Anastasiades and Akinci for their commitment throughout the more than two years of leader-led negotiations and acknowledged the efforts of the Guarantor Powers to work with the sides to find a mutually acceptable solution. “The fate of the process is in their hands”, he stressed.
“Reflecting the strong commitment of the United Nations to support the negotiations towards a united Cyprus, I personally engaged the sides on 30 June and on 6 July in an effort to assist them, along with the Guarantor countries, to tackle the remaining core issues that would allow them to reach a strategic agreement on the Cyprus question.
As mentioned in my remarks to the press in the early morning hours of 7 July in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, following a lengthy and complex round of negotiations, and despite the very strong commitment and engagement of the parties, the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot delegations, Greece, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the European Union as observers, the Conference on Cyprus was closed without an agreement being reached,” he noted.
Guterres described the partnerships of the United Nations with local, regional and international actors, as critical to the ongoing efforts in Cyprus. “I would like to express thanks to these partners, and in particular to the European Commission which provided assistance in a number of areas during this reporting period, including via contributions for work on the two new crossing points to the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage and to the Committee on Missing Persons, as well as to the critically important United Nations’ facilitation of the talks under the auspices of my mission of Good Offices.”
In his reference to the political developments of the last six months, Guterres noted that the negotiations between the Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades, and the Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı, underwent periods of high intensity and unprecedented progress, but faced also various challenges and moments of no progress.
He referred especially to the Conference on Cyprus convened on 12 January 2017 in Geneva with the participation of the Guarantor Powers – Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom –and in the presence of the European Union as an observer.
“The Conference on Cyprus marked a historic and decisive phase in the Cyprus talks as it was the first time the above-mentioned actors came together to discuss the chapter of security and guarantees, the sixth and last chapter of the negotiations,” he pointed out.
Following the convening of the Conference on Cyprus, Guterres said that the sides continued to work on the island, mostly on four of the six chapters – governance and power-sharing, economy, property and EU matters – with regular meetings held between the leaders and the negotiators, as well as work conducted at the experts’ level.
“In the period between 16 February and 11 April, the process however entered a hiatus due to controversy between the sides over the decision by the Parliament of the Republic of Cyprus to introduce an annual commemoration in public schools of the 1950 referendum on ‘Enosis’ (Union) with Greece. The negotiations resumed on 11 April and, in the period that followed, the leaders and negotiators engaged in frequent meetings which registered some progress, albeit at a slow pace”, he said.
UN SG also noted that on 4 June, following a dinner with the two leaders hosted by the Secretary-General in New York, a statement was issued, announcing that the Conference on Cyprus would reconvene in Switzerland in June.
The statement noted that progress in the chapter of security and guarantees was an essential element for reaching an overall agreement and in building trust between the two communities in relation to their future security. It was also agreed to continue in parallel the bi-communal negotiations on all other outstanding issues, starting with territory, property, and governance and powersharing.
Guterres, in his Report underlined that UNFICYP continues to play an important role in maintaining a calm and secure environment in Cyprus and in facilitating communications across the divide.
“This has provided space for the rebuilding of trust between the communities, and has enabled conditions conducive to constructive negotiations between the sides. It is important that these gains are consolidated during the coming period”.
At the same time, he continued to call upon both communities to exert efforts to create a climate conducive to achieving greater economic and social parity between the two sides and to widen and deepen economic, social, cultural, sporting or similar ties and contacts, including with a view to encouraging trade.
“Such contacts promote trust between the communities and help to address the Turkish Cypriots’ concerns regarding isolation. I urge both leaders to persist in addressing those issues”, he added.
Guterres said that as requested by the Security Council, the joint working group established by UNFICYP, which includes my mission of Good Offices and is supported by relevant headquarters departments, continued to conduct planning for transition in relation to a settlement.
“Such planning remained focused on the several key areas of United Nations support in a post-settlement period, which had been agreed in principle by the negotiators in the presence of my Special Adviser and my Special Representative in November 2016. During the reporting period, further discussions between the sides on the details of potential UN support to the implementation of a settlement were limited”, he noted.
On the issue of Missing persons, the Report noted that as of 15 June, the bicommunal team of archaeologists of the Committee on Missing Persons, had exhumed the remains on both sides of the island of 1,229 persons. To date, the remains of 764 missing persons, out of a total of 2,001, have been identified and returned to their respective families, including, during the reporting period, those of 27 individuals. In line with the permission received in November 2015, the Committee thus far conducted, in 2017, nine excavations in military areas in the north, leading to the recovery of the remains of 14 individuals.
“From 24 April to 5 May, staff of the CMP Archival Research Unit and the Third Member reviewed UNFICYP documents from 1963 to 1964 and 1974 which are held in United Nations archives in New York, with the aim of locating information on additional burial sites of missing persons. An ongoing review of UNFICYP archives in Nicosia has also resulted in a number of potentially relevant documents being shared with the Members of the CMP. Throughout the reporting period, the Committee also had exchanges with a number of countries with potentially relevant archives. In light of the advanced age of both relatives and witnesses, it is critical that the necessary means and information, including from relevant archives, be made available to the Committee as soon as possible”.
He also said that UNFICYP noted with concern the decline in the number of religious services approved for its facilitation in the north in comparison to the same period in 2015-2016, as well as other limitations or restrictions which have hampered worship. “All restrictions on the freedom of worship, including those relating to access to religious sites, should be lifted”, he stressed.
In the Report, it is also pointed out that although freedom of movement island-wide is facilitated as a result of the seven crossings, religious sites are not always accessible to all who wish to use them. “Services are permitted only once annually at some churches in the north, and cumbersome procedures are in place for the transfer of religious icons from south to north to be used during religious services. Some limitations to religious worship in mosques in the south remain in place”.
No incidents are noted in the Report regarding the 33 enclaved Greek Cypriots in karpasha, while for the Turkish Cypriots it is noted that UNFICYP continued to engage with the relevant authorities in Larnaca, Limassol and Pafos to identify issues relating to access to health, welfare and educational services for Turkish Cypriots. It also noted that there were no developments regarding the establishment of a Turkish language school in Limassol, although Turkish-speaking pupils continued to have access to Turkish language education at a primary school and high school there.
“In connection with the previously reported November 2015 incident in which two vehicles belonging to Turkish Cypriots were targeted by Greek Cypriot youths throwing stones, the Mission was informed that court hearings to try several individuals charged with these attacks will be held in the autumn. A clear resolution of such cases would serve to build confidence between the two communities and signal that such acts will not be tolerated in Cyprus”, it is pointed out.
UN SG considers that despite these efforts, the division of the island continued to present challenges to law enforcement within and across the buffer zone. In January 2017, I reported on the UNFICYP role in escorting police from both sides into the bicommual village of Pyla to conduct simultaneous searches of eight casinos that had been operating illegally for several years. “Although those searches led to the closure of the casinos, all eight have since reopened, in large part because the conditions that enabled these casinos to operate have not changed.”