By Stefanos Evripidou
THE UN Security Council (UNSC) on Thursday unanimously approved a resolution renewing the mandate of UNFICYP on the island for a further six months.
The passing of UNSC Resolution 2135 extends UNFICYP’s presence in Cyprus until July 31, 2014.
According to Cyprus News Agency, the resolution is exactly the same as the previous one passed last July, except for paragraph four relating to the ongoing efforts for a Cyprus solution.
While noting the efforts undertaken to date to resume peace talks, the Security Council expressed disappointment that official negotiations have yet to start and calls on the sides to agree in a meaningful way to move forward as soon as possible.
It is the first time in two years that the Security Council unanimously adopts a resolution on UNFICYP. Previously, Azerbaijan and Pakistan – who are no longer members of the 15-seat UNSC- would either vote against or abstain during votes on Cyprus. The two countries were deemed to be allies of Turkey and adopted positions similar to those of Ankara on the Cyprus issue.
Meanwhile, efforts to resume the peace talks are ongoing with the US playing a much more active role, in an attempt to bridge the gap between the Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots and Turkey on the draft text of the joint communiqué.
The US Ambassador in Cyprus John Koenig is believed to be acting as a go-between, sending messages from Ankara to the Presidential Palace in Nicosia and back on the draft text.
Koenig and to a lesser degree British High Commissioner Matthew Kidd have taken on a greater role in the peace effort in recent months, in contrast to the more subdued presence of the US and UK the previous five years.
The two diplomats are in frequent contact with President Nicos Anastasiades, Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu and UN Special Adviser Alexander Downer while the foreign secretaries of both the US and the UK, John Kerry and William Hague, have had direct contact with the Turkish leadership in Ankara to specifically discuss efforts to conclude on a joint communiqué.
The heightened diplomatic activity between Nicosia and Ankara has troubled Eroglu, who was at pains to stress that the Turkish Cypriots are the ones calling the shots, in close cooperation with the “motherland”, Turkey.
According to sources, the Turkish government and Eroglu do not always see eye to eye on the peace talks, with Ankara’s positions believed to be more aligned with those of Turkish Cypriot ‘foreign minister’ Ozdil Nami.
Turkey’s high-level involvement in the talks was made clear when Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu visited Eroglu on December 14, the same day a new draft proposal on the joint communiqué was submitted to the UN.
Anastasiades rejected the draft and sent back a revised version which Eroglu rejected. Efforts continue to find a middle ground on the wording of the joint communiqué.
Following a rare invite, Eroglu went to Ankara on January 15 to meet with the Turkish leadership and discuss the Cyprus problem, the immoveable property commission in the north and economic issues.
On Thursday, Turkish Cypriot ‘prime minister’ Ozkan Yorgancioglu and Nami were also in Ankara to meet with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.
Yorgancioglu returns to the north on Friday, accompanied by Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay, Minister of Forestry and Water Affairs Veysel Eroglu and Energy Minister Taner Yildiz.
The three ministers will attend a ceremony in occupied Kyrenia on Saturday where a foundation stone will be laid to mark the installation of infrastructure to receive a water pipeline connecting Turkey with the occupied areas.
According to a Turkish Water Ministry announcement, the necessary infrastructure will cost 123 million Turkish Lira (€40m) and include a water purifier, which will purify 200,000 cubic metres of water daily, and a pipeline from Kyrenia to Nicosia. Also, 160km of water distribution pipes will be installed in the Kyrenia area.
The ministry notes that on completion of the project, 75 million cubic metres of water a year will be transported to the north, of which 50.3 per cent will be potable and 49.7 per cent used for irrigation purposes. The project is expected to cover the needs of the breakaway regime for the next 50 years, said the announcement.