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Unficyp to stay another six months but it could be the last chance

File Photo: Unficyp soldier scans the buffer zone

By Elias Hazou

As the UN Security Council on Thursday renewed Unficyp’s mandate on Cyprus, the chief Greek Cypriot negotiator was cautioning that the current track to kickstart new peace talks may well be the last-chance saloon to solve the Cyprus problem as we know it.

The six-month renewal of the peacekeeping force in Cyprus, until January 31, 2019, was approved by a unanimous vote.

In a statement, the foreign ministry welcomed the UNSC resolution, which among others calls on Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot side to restore the military status quo ante at Strovilia.

The resolution welcomed the appointment of Jane Holl Lute as the UN Secretary General’s envoy, and called on all parties concerned to demonstrate the necessary political will and to engage in a constructive spirit in the ongoing deliberations under UN auspices, in order that reunification talks may recommence.

It also called on the parties to cease and desist from any actions which may damage the prospects for success.

The resolution calls on the UNSG to submit a report on his good offices mission in Cyprus by October 15, following the briefing provided to the UN chief by Lute following her recent visit to the island.

Citing diplomatic sources at the UNSC, the Cyprus News Agency reported that the United States delegates were driving hard for the Unficyp resolution to include wording “that would associate certain benchmarks with the force’s evaluation, including deadlines and an exit strategy.”
This point was not supported at the UNSC, since members argued that Lute’s mission to the region should not be undermined, CNA said.

The Trump administration has signalled it wants to pull funding for UN peacekeeping forces around the world which are deemed to be not absolutely necessary.

In an interview meanwhile with ‘Super Sport FM’, the Greek Cypriot negotiator Andreas Mavroyiannis warned the Cyprus issue was going through a “difficult juncture.”

Although conceding the phrase has been overused in the past, this time it was different, he added.

“Truly, this period may well signal the end of an era.”

Asked to elaborate, Mavroyiannis confirmed that should current reunification efforts fail, it could be the last time that a solution for Cyprus is framed in the context of a bizonal, bicommunal federation – which for the last 44 years has been a constant in reunification talks.

“Unfortunately, yes. When I say ‘end of an era’, I mean the approach adopted after the invasion. There is now a concern as to whether there is anything more to be done.

“There still exists a small window of opportunity, opened by the UN Secretary General last year, and now, in order for us to have a chance of success, we need to convince the UNSG and ourselves that this is feasible.”

Asked how the Greek Cypriot would move forward should the current process come to a dead end, Mavroyiannis did not mince his words:

“We are thinking about how to protect our country…but we do not have alternative scenarios in the event of failure. Failure is not an option, and so we are doing what we can to maximise the chances of success.”

And should the UN then signal that the bizonal, bicommunal federation model has become defunct, Mavroyiannis added, “then we have a problem. A serious problem.

“We all need to realize how serious the situation is. It will be the first time since 1974 that we would not have a clear direction as to what comes next. Let us not forget that the fait accompli from the invasion is becoming all the more entrenched in the north.”

Mavroyiannis said that, at this time, there was no timetable for a process. However, he recalled that president Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader would be meeting with the UNSG in New York in September, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

“He [Guterres] will make an assessment. But there is no commitment that this will be the crucial point. It may come later. We don’t know at this time.”

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