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Prospects of talks ‘remain alive’ – Guterres report (Update 4)

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres

Prospects for a comprehensive settlement between the communities on the island remain alive, as all Cypriots deserve a common future, UN secretary-general said in his report on Cyprus to the permanent members of the Security Council on Monday night.

The much-anticipated report of the secretary-general on his good offices in Cyprus was delivered on Monday evening Cyprus time, after delays because Antonio Guterres reportedly wanted to include the latest developments.

Following an investigation by his special envoy Jane Holl Lute on the prospects of a relaunch of talks on the Cyprus problem, Guterres said that based on these consultations, “as well as my own discussions with the leaders of the two communities, I believe that prospects for a comprehensive settlement between the communities on the island remain alive.”

Guterres said that he would instruct Lute to carry out another fact-finding mission before formal negotiations on the willingness of the two sides to propose new ideas.

Prior to resuming full-fledged negotiations, he said, however, “the sides should agree on terms of reference that would constitute the consensus starting point for a possible negotiated conclusion to the Cyprus issue.”

He noted, however, that notwithstanding the well-known history of the UN’s efforts to broker peace between the communities, the remaining work that the parties must undertake to overcome the challenges that have to date impeded resolution.

Guterres urged the parties to mobilise “their creativity and commitment to help their communities understand and support the aim of a durable solution”.

“I observe clearly that continued support for a horizon of endless process without result lies behind us, not before us. I note the widespread consensus that an unchanging status quo – i.e., the lack of resolution on the Cyprus issue – is not sustainable,” he said.

Lute, he said, conducted careful consultations over the intervening weeks, “and I am grateful for the thoughtful engagement and trust of the leaders of the two communities, the guarantor powers, and others who have offered informed and constructive views on the prospects for a peaceful resolution of this issue that has vexed the best efforts of the international community for over five decades.”

He said that he notes that the parties recall the framework of six points that he offered in June 2017 and that he acknowledges that new ideas may additionally be needed in order for a fresh effort to bear fruit.

“Further, I hold the strong conviction that the way ahead must be well prepared, with a sense of urgency and focus to seize the willingness of the two sides to negotiate,” he said.

In view of what he understands to be the two sides’ interest to engage in such an effort, and before formal negotiations should be launched, he said he will instruct Lute “to continue discussions to gauge the true extent of convergence on key issues and the willingness of the sides to incorporate novel proposals as part of an overall solution toward a common future that they themselves can envisage.”

As regards garnering the support of the two communities, Guterres said that he believes deeply “in the vitality, energy and strength of the island’s population, including especially its women and youth, and I urge their greater engagement to help build the necessary confidence to take the steps that such a solution will require.”

“It is my hope that these discussions can lead, once again, to the deployment of the full weight of my good offices in what may prove a lasting resolution of the Cyprus issue,” he said, adding that he believes that “all Cypriots deserve a common future that one thing alone can bring: a lasting agreement achieved within a clear horizon.”

He reiterated that while the United Nations can assist the parties, an enduring solution to the Cyprus issue is for the Cypriots to decide.

“The view among many informed observers is that a solution will measurably improve the future circumstances of every Cypriot. And while a settlement will demand that each side accept less than the fullest measure of satisfaction, it will also open up opportunities for growth, prosperity, and confidence going forward.”

He also referred to natural resources found in and around Cyprus, which, he said, “should benefit both communities and should provide a strong incentive for all concerned parties to work in earnest towards a mutually acceptable and durable solution.”

Bearing in mind that all parties have recently reiterated their continued commitment to this objective, he said, all efforts should be made to avoid unnecessary escalation in the coming months and to pursue dialogue on this issue.

The Guterres report comes against the backdrop of President Nicos Anastasiades’ suggestion of a ‘loose’ federation as a solution to the Cyprus problem to the National Council last week.

Following strong reaction by opposition parties and talk the president was really flirting with the idea of a confederation, instead of a bizonal, bicommunal federation, the government has been reiterating since that it would not shift its policy on the Cyprus problem.

Anastasiades’ proposal was “food for thought”, the government said, in a bid to find a way out of the deadlock as regards the talks.

The Turkish Cypriots, however, do not appear to be convinced by Anastasiades’ sincerity. ‘Foreign Minister’ Kudert Ozersay stated on Monday that he believes this was another ploy of the Greek Cypriot side to keep both the Turkish Cypriots and the UN trapped in the same barren and unsuccessful negotiation process. The concept of a loose federation, he said, does not change anything in substance, adding that the root of the problem is that the Greek Cypriots do not want to share administrative powers and wealth with the Turkish Cypriots.

Foreign minister Nicos Christodoulides had said last week that Anastasiades’ proposal aims to address one of the most basic disagreements at the negotiating table at the moment, concerning the wish of Turkish Cypriot for a positive vote on all issues in the executive.

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