UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is optimistic that the objective for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem can be achieved, provided that the current political will of the leaders and of their respective communities prevails and that there is continuing support from the international community.
In a report of the UN General Assembly on the organisation`s special missions, including Cyprus, dated September 4 and circulated on October 22, the UN Secretary General notes that, `following an intensive period of discussions between the two sides which started in September 2013, the leaders resumed full-fledged negotiations in February 2014 by adopting a joint declaration which set out the parameters of a unified Cyprus`.
`During the period from January to May 2014 the leaders met twice (in February and March) and five bilateral meetings were held between the United Nations and the two leaders. Following the resumption of negotiations, negotiators appointed by the two leaders replaced the representatives at the negotiation table in July 2014`, he says.
He adds that `the Office of the Special Adviser will continue to facilitate meetings of the two negotiators who have agreed to meet once a week`.
`The negotiators of the two sides have been exchanging papers on topics related to the various chapters for the negotiations. Besides joint meetings of the negotiators, the United Nations continues to engage in regular “shuttle” meetings with the two sides separately, in order to facilitate the discussions on specific issues`, he points out.
Referring to the work of the technical committees, he says that `between January and May 2014 the bicommunal technical committees formulated three new confidence-building measures in the areas of health, cultural heritage and broadcasting, which were approved by the leaders and implemented`, adding that `it is expected that the technical committees will continue to implement further confidence-building measures during the remainder of 2014`.
The Secretary General notes that, following the departure of Alexander Downer as Special Adviser to the Secretary General from his position in April 2014, Acting Special Adviser Lisa Buttenheim, who is the Special Representative of the Secretary General and Head of UNFICYP, `has engaged intensively with the two sides in order to maintain the momentum for the peace process that was gained by the adoption of the joint declaration in February 2014`, adding that `with the appointment of the new Special Adviser to the Secretary General in August 2014, it is expected that the process will continue at a reinvigorated pace, with a combination of direct and shuttle meetings through the end of 2014, with possibly more frequent bilateral meetings between the United Nations and the two leaders`.
On the planning assumptions for 2015, Ban says `the Office of the Special Adviser does not foresee any major changes in its priorities, activities and operational requirements in 2015`, noting that `it will continue to facilitate meetings of the two leaders, their negotiators and experts until a comprehensive settlement is reached and continue its regular “shuttle” meetings with the two sides separately, and engage with a variety of interlocutors, including representatives of political parties, civil society and women’s groups, and with regional and international stakeholders in support of the process`.
Furthermore, the Office will also continue to facilitate the technical committees, including any new committees that may be established, and support confidence-building measures`.
`Should significant progress be achieved in 2015, the United Nations may be called upon to host a multilateral conference to address the final outstanding issues of the negotiations. Should a settlement be reached in 2015, the role of the Office of the Special Adviser may need to be redefined, possibly to assist in the implementation of the agreement`, Ban says.
Referring to his new Special Adviser on Cyprus Espen Barth Eide, the Secretary General notes that he will be based in Geneva and will undertake regular travel to Cyprus to hold meetings with the two sides and facilitate the negotiations. The Special Adviser will also undertake regional travel and travel to New York for consultations with the Secretary-General and other senior officials, as needed, he says.
`In the joint declaration concluded on 11 February 2014, the leaders of the parties agreed to a more comprehensive approach and results-oriented negotiations. Accordingly, the specialized technical expertise of external consultants will continue to be required for resolving areas of disagreement and to facilitate negotiations across chapters. While the staff and facilitators of the Office assume overall responsibility on each chapter of the negotiations, the consultants provide specialized technical expertise, when needed, to contribute to resolving areas of disagreement and devising ideas for implementation strategies`, Ban says.
The Secretary General notes that 26 meetings between the leaders of the two communities were held in 2013, with an estimated 40 in 2014 and a target of 60 in 2015. On the other hand, the negotiators of the leaders held 73 meetings in 2013 to identify areas of convergence, with an estimated 82 meetings for 2014 and a target of 100 for 2015.
Regarding the number of meetings of the working groups and technical committees to discuss specific areas of expertise and identify areas of convergence, 202 meetings were held in 2013, with an estimated 229 for 2014 and a target of 229 for 2015.
The number of papers indicating movement towards convergence between the parties within the full-fledged negotiation process reached 100, with an estimated 100 in 2014 and a target of 150 in 2015.
Furthermore, regarding the implementation of confidence-building measures formulated by the technical committees and approved by the leaders, aimed at easing the daily life of Cypriots across the island, there were 31 confidence-building measures in 2013, with an estimated 37 in 2014 and a target of 40 in 2015.
The Secretary General notes that `the objective is expected to be achieved, provided that the current political will of the leaders and of their respective communities prevails and that there is continuing support from the international community`.
Regarding the budget, Ban says the resource requirements for 2015 represent a decrease of $205,100 compared to the appropriation for 2014, mainly due to a decrease in operational costs, primarily attributable to the reduced travel costs of the incoming Special Adviser who is based in Geneva, unlike the previous Special Adviser, and the reduced requirements for firefighting equipment, cleaning services and consumption of electricity.