By CNA correspondent Apostolis Zoupaniotis
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said that over the course of a year of talks for a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus issue, the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders “have made clear progress on a wide range of issues in the negotiations but undoubtedly, there is still much work that remains ahead”.
In his report on his mission of good offices in Cyprus, the Secretary General notes as the leaders tackle key outstanding issues, he calls on them to “do their utmost to translate the significant mutual understandings they have reached in the course of the year of negotiations into concrete convergences”. To achieve this, he notes, they will need to sustain their ongoing dedication and leadership, as well as a structured approach that would allow them to conclude deliberations on the issues that they have identified for the intensified phase.
Noting that the commitment expressed by the leaders in their statement of 15 May 2016 to intensifying efforts is a clear indication that, while the United Nations has no timelines for the process, the sides recognize that there is a unique opportunity for these negotiations to reach a positive conclusion. Ban strongly urges the leaders and their teams to use the coming weeks and their ongoing intensified work to make further progress as promptly as possible.
“This is all the more critical if they are to grasp the opportunity to move closer to their stated aim of reaching an agreement in 2016”, he underlines.
At the same time, the SG notes that while the task at hand remains significant, the momentum and overall circumstances surrounding the process are such that they present a real, yet fleeting and fragile, historic opportunity for the sides to bring the process to a successful outcome.
“I remain convinced that a mutually acceptable solution to this long-standing issue can be found and that it is, today more than ever, within reach”, said the UNSG, noting “however, will require both sides to act with determination, to take timely and courageous decisions and, most importantly, to look beyond the immediate present as they work together to build a common future for the island, where all Cypriots will be able to prosper in peace and mutual respect”.
The present report on his mission of good offices in Cyprus covers developments from 23 December 2015 to 30 June 2016.
During the reporting period, the Greek Cypriot leader, Nicos Anastasiades, and the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mustafa Akıncı, continued to pursue their efforts to achieve a mutually acceptable and sustainable comprehensive settlement on the basis of relevant Security Council resolutions as well as the Joint Declaration adopted by the sides on 11 February 2014. Since May 2015, when the current round of talks between the two leaders began, Anastasiades, and Akıncı have systematically engaged in this leader-led process and have reiterated their resolve and genuine desire to reach a solution to the Cyprus problem, underscoring on many occasions the economic benefits and wider opportunities that a viable and sustainable solution would bring to both communities, Ban`s report indicates.
Regarding the status of the process, Ban says that since his previous report, in January 2016, “the two leaders have maintained a steadfast commitment to the process. They have continued to engage in person in extensive discussions on a wide range of issues across the chapters under negotiation. During the reporting period, they met on average twice a month, holding a total of 14 meetings, while their negotiators met as many as three times per week, for a total of more than 40 meetings over the past six months. More importantly, the pace and regularity of the meetings have continued to be accompanied by a serious and determined effort to move the process forward, even if, at times, the issues on the table proved to be complex and challenging”.
He reminds that the sides have focused mostly on four of the six chapters under negotiation, namely, governance and power-sharing, property, economy and European Union matters. Through their sustained engagement, the leaders have achieved further progress on a range of issues, particularly those related to governance and power-sharing, including citizenship and property.
They also continued to conduct extensive negotiations on the economy chapter and maintained their common vision to negotiate a settlement that would be in line with European Union principles, translating this into various understandings and convergences.
Following detailed, serious and, at times, difficult discussions, they were able to formulate a joint paper on property, he says, adding that while divergences remain and are recorded in the joint paper, it is important to note that this is the first time in the talks that the sides negotiate this critical chapter on the basis of a joint document.
Regarding the issue of security and guarantees, Ban said that some divergences on this topic remain and, on 8 June, the leaders agreed to include it as one of the issues to be addressed during their period of intensified negotiations.
He also says that work to better prepare the future Turkish Cypriot Constituent State for the implementation of the European Union acquis upon entry into force of the settlement agreement and work with the international financial institutions is progressing, drafting of the constitution and planning for implementation have yet to begin in earnest.
A significant feature of the current round of talks has been the recognition by the leaders of the importance of having the principles and values upon which the European Union is founded upheld and embedded in the comprehensive settlement, whilst respecting its bizonal and bicommunal character.
According to Ban, the two negotiators, Andreas Mavroyiannis and Özdil Nami, carried out an unprecedented joint visit to the European Commission headquarters in Brussels in order to request an intensification of the European Union technical assistance provided within the framework of the activities carried out by the Bicommunal Ad Hoc Committee. During the reporting period, 13 technical workshops on European Union matters were held under the auspices of the United Nations.
Ban also says that expert groups have also proliferated in relation to the economic aspects of the talks while international financial institutions, including the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, engaged in an accelerated programme of work in support of the two sides carried out under the auspices of the United Nations.
Turning to his Special Adviser Espen Barth Eide, Ban said he has continued frequent contacts with international partners and relevant regional players, including the three guarantor powers, Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
In his observations, Ban says that he is encouraged by the determination and political will that have been displayed by the leaders, as well as the substantial efforts of their negotiators and negotiating teams, in the course of the reporting period.
Ban notes that “despite full recognition by the leaders that the work in such areas as economic aspects of the talks and preparations for the implementation of a settlement, including preparing the future Turkish Cypriot Constituent State for the implementation of the European Union acquis upon entry into force of the settlement agreement, is critical and necessary”, the sides have at times allowed progress to be held up by procedural considerations. He urges them to overcome such hurdles in future to allow this important work to move forward speedily and without unnecessary delays.
He further notes that it is vital that the guarantor powers, Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom, remain committed to supporting the ongoing efforts of the leaders to reach a comprehensive settlement as soon as possible.
The UNSG underlines that over “the course of a year of talks, the current Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders have made clear progress on a wide range of issues in the negotiations. At
the same time, undoubtedly, there is still much work that remains ahead”.
Ban thanked Lisa Buttenheim, who concluded her service as my Special Representative and Deputy Special Adviser in Cyprus on 10 June 2016. She was replaced by Elizabeth Spehar, who arrived on the island in June 2016 to assume her duties as my Special Representative and Head of Mission, as well as Deputy Special Adviser.