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Ban urges leaders to aid deeper everyday contacts

UN Secretary General (UNSG) Ban Ki-moon has urged the leaders of both communities make an effort to create a climate conducive to the widening and deepening of contacts between the two sides.

UN Special Adviser on Cyprus Alexander Downer is expected to brief the Security Council on the UNSG`s Good Offices mission on January 15 and the status of Cyprus negotiations. Talks have not begun yet as the two sides continue to haggle over the contents of a joint statement.

In his report on UNFICYP operations, the Secretary General said the force continued to play a crucial role and extended the force’s mandate until July 31, 2014. UNFICYP numbers now stand at 857 for all ranks with a civilian police force of 65.

Ban said that during the six-month reporting period, the two sides continued to withhold access for demining to the four known mined areas in the buffer zone, of which three are under the control of the National Guard and one under that of the Turkish forces.

Beyond the buffer zone, UNFICYP continued to address concerns of Greek Cypriots and Maronites residing in the north, including through weekly delivery of humanitarian assistance to 347 Greek Cypriots and 120 Maronites in the north, and support to the Greek Cypriot schools in the Karpas peninsula.

It notes that as in previous reports, there were again no new developments regarding the establishment of a Turkish language school in Limassol.

UNFICYP facilitated 42 religious events, involving more than 13,000 individuals, which were held in the buffer zone or required crossings to the other side.

Significant progress was made on the restoration of the Apostolos Andreas monastery, including through the two contribution agreements signed on September 17 with the Church of Cyprus and the Evkaf Administration respectively, the report said.

From July to November 2013, about 700,000 official crossings were recorded through the buffer zone. From May to November, goods worth nearly €400,000 crossed from the south to the north, while goods amounting to about €2.6 million moved in the opposite direction. Both sides continue to apply administrative procedures, which, at times, had the effect of discouraging intercommunal trade, said Ban.

Regarding the Committee on Missing Persons, the report said that as of December 15, 2013, bicommunal teams of archaeologists had exhumed the remains of 1,012 individuals on both sides of the island. To date, the remains of 475 individuals have been returned to their respective families, including 83 during the reporting period. The total number of missing persons identified in 2013 now stands at 137, making the year the most successful yet.

“While I welcome the unprecedented number of identifications carried out by the Committee this year, I also note that up to 50 years after their disappearance, half of all missing persons have yet to be located and 75 per cent have yet to be identified,” the Secretary General said.

Regarding the financial situation of UNFICYP, the report indicates that the General Assembly appropriated the amount of $55.6 million gross for the maintenance of UNFICYP for the period from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014, inclusive of the voluntary contribution of one third of the net cost of the Force, equivalent to $18.7 million from the Government of Cyprus and the voluntary contribution of $6.5 million from the Government of Greece.

As at December 6, 2013, the total outstanding assessed contributions to the special account for UNFICYP for the period from June 1993 to December 2013 amounted to $15.9 million.

In his observations, Ban refers to the low number of people crossing and trading across the buffer zone, which he described as “regrettable”. “I still believe that the development of economic, social, cultural, sporting or similar ties and contacts will have a positive impact on efforts to resume negotiations and the broader climate. Such contacts promote trust between the communities and help to address the Turkish Cypriots’ concerns of isolation.” he said.

He called on both community leaders to exert efforts towards creating a climate conducive to the widening and deepening of such contacts.

“Greater economic and social parity between the sides will make an eventual reunification easier and more likely. In the context of an internationally sanctioned peace process, efforts in the opposite direction can only be counterproductive,” said Ban.

With regard to natural resources around Cyprus, Ban underlined that it was important to ensure that any new-found wealth would benefit both

In view of the upcoming 50th anniversary year of the UN Cyprus mission in March 2014, Ban expressed his gratitude to the 32 countries that had contributed since 1964 either troops or police or both to UNFICYP, and paid tribute to the 184 peacekeepers who lost their lives over that period in support of peace in Cyprus.

“I trust that this fiftieth anniversary will further the impetus towards an early resolution of the conflict and the reunification of the island,” he added.

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