UN Special Representative and Unficyp Chief of Mission Elizabeth Spehar hopes the two leaders meet soon after they both expressed a willingness to do so.
Following a briefing of the UN Security Council in New York on Friday night, Spehar said: “We knows that the two leaders have decided that they want to meet, and I hope that it will happen very soon.”
“I think it is still early days, but we do know that the two leaders have decided that they would like to meet and I’m hoping that will happen very soon, and I’m sure that Ms Lute would also look at returning to the island in the very near future but there has nothing been said yet to my knowledge”, she said.
She added, during her statement to the press, that she was still not in a position to comment on what would exactly happen after both President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, separately sent letters to the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Spehar said she was also unable to say when Guterres’ special envoy Jane Holl Lute would visit the island.
Her briefing with the Security Council lasted more than two hours, and she said she explained the recent developments and activities of both Unficyp and the UN’s Good Offices in Cyprus. “I can confirm to you that the Council remains interested and engaged on the Cyprus issue,” she said.
Spehar said she told the Security Council about the various confidence-building measures (CBMs) that have been enacted, including the interconnection of the electricity grids, and mobile phone networks.
“I also noted to the Security Council that these confidence-building measures do not just have a practical and positive impact on the daily life of Cypriots, but that they are also emblematic of what is still possible when the leaders show the political will necessary.”
However, she added that despite the confidence-building measures, the Council still shared concern over the lack of talks to settle the Cyprus issue.
“I underlined that we have just passed the two years since the end of the conference on Cyprus, and this is surely an issue of concern. They also shared my concern over the tensions in the area, including those off the coast of Cyprus.”
Commenting on the role of Unficyp, Spehar said that she informed the Security Council about the mission’s critical role for keeping balance, especially on and around the buffer zone.
“No one assumes that resuming negotiations will be an easy task. There is a great desire on the part of the Council to see the leaders and the parties, in general, get back to the negotiation table as soon as possible and I personally firmly believe that returning to the talks still offers the best chance for lasting peace in Cyprus,” Spehar said.
She added that the Secretary-General also noted this in a recent report, where he hoped the two sides would take part in the continued consultations constructively.
Spehar thanked the council for their support of Unficyp and their support for Lute in her consultations.
Asked about Lute’s efforts in Cyprus, Spehar said that they had not failed, and were continuing and that the Secretary-General was clear in his report about wanting Lute to continue her consultations.
She added that the Security Council wanted to know when talks might start, which Spehar said was in the hands of the parties involved.”
Ahead of the briefing, the deputy UK representative to the UN, Jonathan Allen said that Britain believes it is critically important that there be a settlement on the Cyprus problem, based on a bizonal, bicommunal federation.
“We are satisfied to see that the leaders seem to be willing to meet later this month and we hope that this will lead to the start of talks for the settlement,” she said.