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UNSG: historic opportunity for solution lost (updated)

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

A historic opportunity was missed in Crans-Montana, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in his much-awaited report on his good offices mission in Cyprus, noting that a strategic agreement for a solution to the Cyprus problem had largely been agreed at Crans-Montana but a breakthrough was not possible due to mistrust and a lack of political will.

The report, dated September 28 and covering the period from May 2015 to August 2017, was advanced to members of the UN Security Council late on Friday.

In his observations, Guterres said in his view “the essence of a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus problem is practically there”.

“The parties had come close to reaching a strategic understanding on security and guarantees as well as on all other outstanding core elements of a comprehensive settlement,” Guterres said.

“It is therefore my firm belief that a historic opportunity was missed in Crans-Montana.”

The secretary-general stressed the importance of the necessary political will for the parties to reach a settlement, suggesting that this element had been missing in Crans-Montana.

“Upon closing the Conference on Cyprus, I encouraged the sides to reflect on the way forward,” he said, adding that even if all the “core enablers” are in place, as they were in Crans-Montana, a deal will remain elusive without “political will, courage and determination, mutual trust and a readiness to take calculated risks”.

Based on the above, the secretary-general reiterated his call to the leaders to continue such reflection “to determine if and when conditions will mature again for a meaningful process in the near future.”

“I reaffirm the readiness of the United Nations to assist the sides should they jointly decide to engage in such a process with the necessary political will, in order to conclude the strategic agreement that was emerging in Crans-Montana,” the UN chief said.

“I furthermore encourage them to seek ways to preserve the body of work that had been built throughout the process in the form of convergences and understandings accumulated in the course of the past two years.”

On the way forward, Guterres suggested that in the future a strategic-level agreement on key outstanding issues should be pursued, with details to be worked out at the technical level later.

“An early agreement at the strategic level would immediately provide each side with the needed reassurance that the overall settlement would contain those elements that are of key importance for each community and thus provide impetus for completion of the remaining technical details,” he argued.

In the chapter entitled ‘Status of the process’, Guterres described the progress accomplished in all six chapters of the negotiations, including convergences and remaining open issues.

Guterres stated regret over the fact that no additional crossing points have opened and the sides’ failure to implement earlier agreements on interconnectivity of electricity grids and the interoperability of mobile telephones, while urging the continuation of technical committee meetings.

“I believe that it is important to continue the support of the United Nations to the work of the technical committees, particularly during this period of political uncertainty,” he said.

“Because of the bi-communal nature of the technical committees, they have the potential to sustain the gains achieved so far in the Cyprus peace talks, and continue to contribute to the development of further confidence-building measures and peace-building efforts.”

In his extensive presentation of the events at Crans Montana, which included an outline of his proposals, Guterres generally avoided recording details of what happened during the final dinner of the Conference and in his private meetings with the parties involved.

The leaders at Crans-Montana

Despite differences in their opening positions and public rhetoric, the UN chief said he could see that the sides had all come to Switzerland “committed to seeking mutually acceptable solutions”.

But despite a positive mood and constructive statements made during the opening day of the Conference, real progress quickly became hampered by the parties at one ‘table’ being reluctant to make compromises unless progress had been made at the other ‘table’, and vice versa.

“In an effort to resolve this dilemma, on 30 June, I presented the parties with a framework for simultaneously resolving six major outstanding issues at both ‘tables’ as elements of a final package that, in my view, would lead to a comprehensive settlement,” he said, referring to the famous ‘Guterres framework’.

He added that “by the end of the Conference, the sides had reached practically full agreement on the federal executive and effective participation”, while minor differences remained on equivalent treatment of Greek and Turkish nationals.

He also recorded what was agreed on property and territorial issues and his proposals on security and guarantees.

“I proposed that the parties identify solutions taking into account that the current system of guarantees, and in particular article four of the Treaty of Guarantee containing the unilateral right of intervention, was ‘unsustainable’,” he said.

“I also suggested that a new system of security was needed for Cyprus, together with a credible framework for monitoring implementation of the agreement in which the current guarantors would play a role. On the question of the presence of Greek and Turkish troops in Cyprus, it was agreed that any outstanding issues regarding troops would best be addressed at the highest political level involving the Prime Ministers of the three guarantor powers.”

On July 6 Guterres returned to Crans-Montana to help the parties reach a strategic understanding on the six issues. He noted it was only upon his return that some of the most essential elements were considered, but ultimately a strategic agreement seemed within reach.

“During confidential bilateral meetings, key positions and indications of possible openings were put forward by relevant parties, particularly on the issues related to security and guarantees,” Guterres said.

“It was underscored, however, repeatedly by several of the parties that these were to be taken as part of the overall package which I had presented. During a dinner for the heads of delegation, I shared my assessment that there was a broad understanding of the parameters of the potential strategic agreement. I also presented the parties with a draft of an implementation monitoring framework in the form of a non-paper for their consideration.”

But however close it had seemed in substance, a deal proved elusive primarily due to a lack of trust and political will, Guterres said.

“Regrettably, during the dinner, while the six elements of the package were largely available, the parties were unable to finalise a package and bridge remaining differences,” he wrote in his report.

“While the parties were moving closer on substance, they remained far apart with respect to the necessary trust and determination to seek common ground through mutual accommodation, ultimately preventing them from reaching the broad outlines of a strategic understanding across the negotiating chapters which could have paved the way for the final settlement deal. Therefore, no agreement could be reached to convene the Prime Ministers. As a result, the parties concurred with my conclusion that the Conference would likely not achieve a result and should be closed.”

The two leaders in Mont Pelerin

The report also included details on the meetings in Mont Pelerin and the Conference on Cyprus convened in Geneva, on January 12, 2017.

On the Mont Pelerin meetings, Guterres said that during the first round the leaders “secured a significant breakthrough” on land percentages in territorial adjustment but in the second round “failed to achieve further progress on territory, returning to the island with a clear perception that the process risked facing a serious stalemate.”

Guterres also reported the decision of the Cyprus Parliament on the 1950 Enosis Referendum that caused a two-month hiatus in the talks, which he described as a “setback”.

“The sides lost crucial time in the negotiations when they had gained significant momentum,” he said.

“It also had a negative impact on the trust between the two leaders and their respective communities.”
On the Geneva Conference on Cyprus, Guterres said it had set the parameters for solving security and guarantees.

“The statement of the Conference on Cyprus of 12 January underscored the need for mutually acceptable solutions that address the concerns of both communities, with the overarching principle that the security of one community cannot come at the expense of the security of the other community,” he wrote.

“It also established that the solutions envisaged needed to address both communities’ traditional security fears, while developing a security vision for the future. These parameters guided the work of the Group of Deputies of the Conference, which met one week later in Mont Pèlerin.”

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