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Cyprus

UN chief recommends extension of UNFICYP mandate

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has recommended that the mandate of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) be extended for a period of six months, until January 31, 2014, noting that “UNFICYP continues to play an essential role on the island by exercising authority in the buffer zone and contributing to keeping the calm and to the resolution of various issues affecting the everyday lives of both communities.”
In his draft report on the UN operation in Cyprus, Ban referred to his good offices’ mission and noted that there have been no negotiations between the leaders of the two communities since March 2012.
Diplomatic sources said the report is carefully worded, especially where the good offices of the Secretary General are concerned, and does not give the impression that the resumption of talks for a solution of the Cyprus problem is imperative.
Ban said that the election of President Nicos Anastasiades in February brought new hope and cautious optimism for constructive talks between the two communities, and that Anastasiades met Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu on May 30 in a convivial atmosphere at a dinner hosted by Special Adviser on Cyprus Alexander Downer Special Representative and Chief of Mission Lisa Buttenheim.
The UN Secretary General also referred to various UNFICYP activities, including the prevention of a recurrence of fighting and the maintenance of the military status quo, demining, the restoration of normal conditions and humanitarian functions, the work of the Committee on Missing Persons, and financial and administrative issues.
Regarding the exploration for natural resources within the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus, Ban noted that related tensions continued during the reporting period.
“Drilling activities continued in order to verify the presence and extent of hydrocarbon resources within designated blocks to the south and south-east of the island. Turkey continued to protest the development. Following the start of a second phase of drilling activities, on June 14 Turkey issued a statement confirming its position in support of Turkish Cypriot objections that such actions prejudge the rights of the Turkish Cypriot community. The statement indicated Turkey’s intention to provide assistance for the exploration for natural resources by the Turkish Cypriots to the south of the island,” he said.
He added that, “in response, on June 17 Cyprus issued a statement in defence of its sovereign right to explore and exploit natural resources in its exclusive economic zone” and that “the statement condemned Turkey’s intention to support exploration for natural resources by the Turkish Cypriots, noting that such a development would increase tension in the area.”
Ban called on all parties to make every effort to avoid raising tensions, which may have a negative impact on the security situation, including in the buffer zone, adding that “it is important to ensure that any new-found wealth, which belongs to all Cypriots, will benefit both communities.
“Without doubt, the discovery of offshore gas reserves constitutes a strong incentive for all parties to find a durable solution to the Cyprus problem. It is my hope that the discovery may engender a deeper cooperation for the benefit of all stakeholders in the region,” he said.
Regarding the work of the Committee on Missing Persons, Ban noted that it continued to carry forward its bicommunal project on the exhumation, identification and return of the remains of missing persons, and that, “as of June 2013, the Committee’s bicommunal teams of archaeologists had exhumed the remains of 978 individuals on both sides of the island.
“To date, the remains of 407 individuals have been returned to their respective families, including 71 during the reporting period,” he said.
In his observations, Ban said the situation along the ceasefire lines remained mostly calm and stable, with a low level of military violations, and encourages both sides to desist from challenging the UN delineation of the ceasefire lines and, consequently, the demarcation of the buffer zone, which only increases tensions.
He furthermore expressed concern that “the financial and economic crisis affecting Cyprus has the potential to negatively impact inter-communal contacts and relations,” and pointed out the need for further contacts and confidence building measures.

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