DISCUSSIONS of the UN secretary-general’s latest report on Cyprus at the Security Council on Tuesday were held in a positive climate, reported the Cyprus New Agency’s correspondent in New York, quoting diplomatic sources. Security Council members expressed their support for the efforts of the UNSG’s envoy Jane Holl Lute, who had separate meetings with the two leaders in Cyprus on Wednesday, welcomed the opening of more crossing points and emphasised the need for a positive climate that could be secured through more confidence-building measures.
The most interesting part of the informal deliberations was the disagreement over the initial statement by the Security Council’s president who endorsed the reference made by the UNSG in his report, that “the way ahead must be prepared with a sense of urgency.” Turkey insisted on a wording that could be interpreted as a time-frame, while Russia’s representative objected to this and ensured that “sense of urgency” was replaced in the final statement as “without unreasonable delays.”
So now, the way ahead will not be prepared “with a sense of urgency”, but instead “without unreasonable delays”. Reasonable delays would have the approval of the UN Security Council. The CyBC reported this meaningless change of wording as a diplomatic success for the Greek Cypriot side, which is obviously in no hurry for a new procedure, let alone substantive talks aimed at reaching an agreement. After all, President Anastasiades needs time to make up his mind about what type of settlement he wants – a loose federation, a confederation, two states or the continuation of the status quo – after also consulting the party leaders and constitutional experts. The time needed to make up his mind will be presented as reasonable delay.
Jane Holl Lute, however, appears to have a sense of urgency and is unlikely to put up with any delaying tactics. She asked the two leaders to agree on the terms of reference for the resumption of substantive negotiations, said the government spokesman.
In short, the UN has put the onus for resuming the talks on the two sides – if they do not have the political will or desire to agree the terms of reference for a new process there will not be one. Gone are the days when the UN envoy shuttled from one side to the other trying to bridge their differences and find common ground between them.
It is up to the leaders to move the process forward, but it is unlikely the UN secretary-general will be prepared to wait very long for them, even if the Security Council does not expect them to show a sense of urgency.