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Guterres: Expectations low for agreement on terms of reference

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has left the window open yet again for the two sides in Cyprus even though expectations were low for progress or agreement on terms of reference to resume talks at the moment, he said.

Couched in diplomatic language, Guterres, in his unofficial report on his Good Offices Mission which was handed over to the UN Security Council in New York on Tuesday night, still managed to put across a measure of urgency, and express his disappointment with the recent public discourse in Cyprus.

Guterres said he would request his envoy Jane Holl Lute continue her efforts on his behalf to facilitate President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci to agree to terms of reference for a resumption of negotiations. He warned, however, that the way forward must “be well prepared, with a sense of urgency and focus”.
He called on “the two leaders, their communities, the guarantor powers and other interested parties to engage in these efforts constructively, creatively and with the necessary sense of urgency”.

Scepticism on both sides continued to prevail in the aftermath of the leaders’ meetings on October 2018 and February 2019, Guterres said.

“While some progress was registered on confidence-building measures, there are low expectations for real progress or agreement on the terms of reference,” he added.

“While recent efforts to help establish terms of reference have not yet borne fruit, I still hold out hope that the parties will use this opportunity to overcome the differences that persist.”

Guterres said that while the “bright glimmer of hope” had been seen before “equally, however, we have seen our hopes dashed” but all Cypriots deserved the UN’s commitment to make every effort to support the parties to deliver, he added.

“As I have noted previously, a settlement will demand that each side accept less than the fullest measure of satisfaction on every issue,” he warned, and added that while all sides involved express commitment, it has yet to be translated into action by agreeing the terms of reference to move forward.

“Indeed, recent public rhetoric on the island – in tone and substance – has emphasised the differences that continue to divide the communities, rather than the common future that can unite them and the benefits to be had from a peaceful resolution once and for all to the Cyprus problem,” Guterres said.

He repeated that “support for a horizon of endless process without result lies behind us, not before us”, and that an unchanging status quo was not sustainable. Going forward, the process with Lute would need to be infused with a sense of purpose and determination to reach a successful end within a foreseeable horizon.

And while he lauded recent confidence-building measures, only meaningful indications of a return to the negotiation table, including through an agreement on the terms of reference, “will provide convincing reassurances about the real prospects of the peace process to the two communities, other interested parties and the international community at large.”

To help accomplish this, it would require an open and constructive discourse that transcends polarising rhetoric and that focuses on the benefits for all Cypriots.

Guterres also referred to “the enduring tensions surrounding hydrocarbons exploration”, and reiterated that “the natural resources found in and around Cyprus should benefit both communities and can constitute a strong incentive to find a durable solution to the Cyprus problem.”

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