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Guterres: lack of confidence-building a stark reminder of the ongoing divide

In addition to his view on the Cyprus negotiating process, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in his report released late Monday, pointed out that there had been little movement on new trust-building or confidence-building measures.

“The implementation of outstanding agreed confidence building measures previously agreed by the two leaders made scant progress,” Guterres said.

The leaders had renewed their focus on the work at two additional crossing points, as announced in 2015 and taken up by the Technical Committee on Crossings, “with the intention of opening them promptly”.

Some, but not all of the necessary public works at both crossings were completed during the period. “However, despite these efforts, and notwithstanding the work by UNDP to support technical preparations as well the continuous efforts by UNFICYP to find solutions to issues and concerns raised by both sides, regrettably the two crossing points have yet to be opened,” he added.

To date, the UNSG said, there continued to be no significant change in the operation of the Technical Committees. Some of these bicommunal bodies, such as the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage, the Joint Communications Room (JCR), which is linked to the Technical Committee on Crime and Criminal Matters, as well as the Technical Committee on Education, continue to meet regularly and work on important bi-communal initiatives.

Others meet only sporadically. Out of 12 Technical Committees, seven have not met in over a year, and one of those has not met since autumn 2016, the report noted.

“Ten years after their initial establishment, the bi-communal Technical Committees continue to operate, albeit with little momentum. Overall, the stated commitment of the leaders to revitalising these bicommunal institutions has not yet led to increased or more effective activities on the ground and the work of the Technical Committees remains inconsistent,” it added.

Guterres also referred to several controversies related to inter-communal relations that arose, “serving as a stark reminder of the ongoing divide”.

These included the reaction by some political actors in the Greek Cypriot community to musicians employed by the Cyprus Symphony Orchestra intending to play at a festival in the north. The musicians ultimately refrained from participating, as well as the protests by civil society activists on both sides of the divide against the decision of local Turkish Cypriot authorities to open a beach in the Famagusta area only to Turkish Cypriots and Turkish nationals.

He also referred to the group of 238 Greek Cypriot journalists who signed a letter of protest against a bi-communal glossary of sensitive words and phrases for voluntary consideration by journalists from both communities that had been launched on 10 July by the OSCE’s Representative on Freedom of the Media aiming “to encourage sensitive communications, to promote the sharing of stories and experiences, and, eventually, to help ease tensions”.

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