By Evie Andreou
Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci has sent a letter to the members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) calling for the reassessment of the mandate of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus’ (Unficyp).
The letter, dated July 2, is a response to the letter sent by President Nicos Anastasiades to the members of the UNSC on June 25, concerning the renewal of Unficyp’s mandate for six more months, until January 31, 2019.
In his letter, published by the Cyprus News Agency, Akinci said that even though Unficyp has contributed to stability on the island through its original mandate, after more than half a century of operations on the island, it was imperative that the UNSC re-evaluates the mandate of the peacekeeping force’s mission in light of fundamental changes in circumstances such as the opening of the crossing points between the two sides.
Referring to a 2000 report by the then chair of the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations, Lakhdar Brahimi, which stated that acceptance and consent of all local parties should be sought for a successful UN peacekeeping operation, Akinci said that Unficyp continues to cooperate with the Turkish Cypriot authorities without a legal basis, despite the repeated calls by the Turkish Cypriot side for the establishment of such a basis
He also conveyed the readiness of his community for the preparation of a document with the UN to deal with all the aspects of the relations of the breakaway regime with Unficyp and the establishment of the legal basis.
The Turkish Cypriot leader also said that contributions by the governments of Cyprus and Greece to the budget of Unficyp, was a clear example of a conflict of interest. Such practices, he said, had stopped in all other UN missions in the world.
Akinci also called on the UN to encourage direct cooperation between the two communities without delay, taking into consideration, he said, that, one day Unficyp will no longer be present on the island.
Citing recent reports of the UN Secretary-General on building trust and direct contacts between the communities on the island, Akinci said that while the Turkish Cypriots demonstrated readiness to implement already agreed confidence-building measures (CBMs), the Greek Cypriot side had succeeded in preventing such attempts to establish direct contact between the two communities, by referring almost all bi-communal issues to Unficyp.
He said that while he recognises the role Unficyp played in the past to facilitate such contacts, he wanted to remind the Security Council that nothing prevents the two sides to work directly in all aspects, especially in crisis management and humanitarian issues, as long as there is political will.
Consequently, he said, the presence of Unficyp should not be exploited by the Greek Cypriot side as a pretext to create barriers to direct trade between the two sides. He said he expects the Security Council members to take this into account when assessing the future of Unficyp.
As regards the settlement negotiations, Akinci, describing the Turkish invasion as a legitimate response to the military coup of Greece in Cyprus on July 15, 1974, he said that Turkey’s presence on the island should not be seen as an expression of aggression, but as a means of preventing violence against Turkish Cypriots. In view of these historical events, he said, the Greek Cypriot leadership should focus on achieving a peaceful solution that will be mutually acceptable rather than engaging in a blame game.
He reiterated the position that during the talks in Switzerland last summer, the Turkish Cypriot side along with Turkey had exhibited the flexibility needed to reach a strategic agreement, but that the Greek Cypriot leadership, instead of responding to the steps taken and demonstrating the necessary political courage and determination, focused only on the shift of responsibility and therefore lost this unique window of opportunity to resolve the Cyprus problem.
He also described as an unprecedented initiative his proposal of April 30, on the two sides reaching a strategic agreement based on the Guterres Framework, which, he said, unfortunately it was not accepted by the Greek Cypriot leader.
The unwillingness of Anastasiades to take the necessary steps to reach a solution, he said, raises the question whether the Greek Cypriot leadership was ready for a solution based on a bizonal, bicommunal federation with political equality of the two sides. Anastasiades, he said, continues demonising the political equality of the two sides and the principle of effective participation in decision-making.
Addressing the members of the UNSC, Akinci said that in light of the above, it was imperative that the Security Council ensures that the presence of Unficyp in Cyprus after 54 years does not contribute to the status quo and that it complies with the changes in the prevailing situation.
Therefore, he said, an overall revision of its mandate should not be ruled out, as well as the level and concept of Unficyp’s presence on the island, as, any presence that creates a comfortable zone for the Greek Cypriot side on the island must be questioned.
Foreign Minister, Nicos Christodoulides said what the Turkish Cypriot side was after, was to have a say in matters concerning Unficyp.
Commenting to state broadcaster CyBC radio on Akinci’s letter, Christodoulides said that establishing a legal basis for cooperation with Unficyp was the main reason for the communication of the Turkish Cypriot leader to the UNSC. He added that similar letters were being sent regularly to the UNSC.
It seems, he said, it was a reaction to the letter sent by Anastasiades to the president of the UNSC and the UN Secretary-General, presenting some data, as the Republic of Cyprus is the hosting country for Unficyp.
“The approach of Turkey on this matter is well known. It is aimed at creating issues with that mission, because this serves long-established goals,” he said.
Christodoulides also said that the presence of Unficyp on the island is based on the UNSC resolution 186 of 1964 and it concerns the Republic of Cyprus.
Turkish Cypriots seek that legal status, he said, so that they can have a say in the continuation of the Unficyp operations in Cyprus. He said that this approach has been promoted by Turkey since 1964. It was the Cyprus Republic that requested the presence of a UN peacekeeping force on the island in March 1964 after the intercommunal troubles. If Unficyp was to establish a legal basis for cooperation with the Turkish Cypriot side, it would put the ‘TRNC’ on a par with the Republic and could be seen as recognition of the unrecognised statelet in the north.
Earlier in the week, the Turkish Cypriot ‘foreign ministry’ said that the latest Unficyp report was favouring the status quo on the island to the detriment of Turkish Cypriots.
Citing both content and technical concerns, the ‘ministry’ said that, in order for the peace keeping force to continue its presence on the island, the report is trying to give the ‘incorrect impression’ that Unficyp is the side that ensures peace and stability and that it therefore opens the door to ‘artificial agendas created by the Greek Cypriot side’.
The government expects that Unficyp will continue its mission as long as there are Turkish occupation troops on the island, Government Spokesman Prodromos Prodromou said later on Saturday.