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Our view: Unficyp’s presence should not be taken for granted

THE UN Security Council renewed the mandate for Unficyp for another six months while urging the two sides to implement confidence-building measures and take more steps to increase trust between the two communities. It also urged the two leaders to put efforts into reaching convergences on core issues and to intensify work with the technical committees. It repeated the UN secretary-general’s mantra that the responsibility for finding a settlement “lies, first and foremost, with the Cypriots themselves”.

There were also some points that people following the peace process would find amusing. The Security Council, noted “the many important benefits, including economic benefits for all Cypriots, that would flow from a comprehensive and durable Cyprus settlement”, and urged “the two sides and their leaders to foster positive public rhetoric”, and “encouraged them clearly to explain the benefits of the settlement, as well as the need for increased flexibility and compromise in order to secure it, to both communities well in advance of any referenda”.

All this sounds perfectly reasonable on paper, but how often in the last year have the two sides fostered positive public rhetoric about a settlement? As for the “need of increased flexibility and compromise”, if one of the leaders displayed it, he would be savaged by the hawks on his side for making concessions that undermined the national interest. Regarding the economic benefits of a settlement, when some leading Greek Cypriot businessmen dared to speak about them at the start of the talks, they were pilloried by hard-liners for putting financial gain above the national interest.

More worrying was the reference to “the need for the Council to pursue a rigorous, strategic approach to peacekeeping deployments” and the “need to regularly review all peacekeeping operations to ensure efficiency and effectiveness”. This was in line with the US administration’s general policy of advocating the reduction of peacekeeping operations in places where they were not contributing to efforts to solve political problems. Cyprus is such a place as the presence of Unficyp assists the maintenance of the status quo by offering Greek Cypriots a sense of security. This sense of security would vanish if Unficyp were ever to leave and there were no peacekeepers between the Turkish troops and the National Guard controlling the buffer zone.

The Security Council also set a timeline for reviewing the situation. It “requests the Secretary-General to submit a report on progress towards a settlement by 15 June 2018, and on implementation of this resolution by 10 July 2018”. This will give it some time to discuss Unficyp’s mandate, which it extended until July 31, 2018. The signs are that another extension should not be taken for granted.

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