UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres considers the prospects for a resumption of Cyprus negotiations uncertain at this time but continues to hope that a lasting settlement can be achieved, though he expressed “growing concern” over developments around the issue of hydrocarbons.
Guterres who will meet both leaders in Berlin on November 25, urges all parties to take advantage of the consultations currently under way to lay the foundations for new and clear commitments, he said in the latest report on his Good Offices Mission.
A draft of the report was circulated to the UN Security Council on Thursday night.
The report includes two ten-page briefings by President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, which the Security Council had recently requested.
Guterres welcomed the constructive engagement of the parties, guarantors and other stakeholders with his special envoy, Jane Holl Lute, who will be in Cyprus this weekend and credits this engagement with helping to maintain the prospects for peace, which is ultimately in the hands of both sides.
In this context, he added, he would like to reiterate his call on the parties to consider constructively the six-point framework he proposed on June 30, 2017.
Guterres added that public perception surveys had again demonstrated that the desire for a solution amongst the two communities continued to prevail, but that trust remained low.
“The people of Cyprus deserve to know that this time is different. Again, I urge leaders, guarantors and other stakeholders to make productive use of the coming period to lay the groundwork for fresh and unambiguous commitments to achieve a peaceful settlement, which has eluded Cypriots for so long,” he said.
“People are sceptical about the prospects for successful talks,” Guterres said. “Despite repeated calls on the two leaders to better inform the two communities about the contours of a settlement and to improve the overall conditions and atmosphere for the process, the climate has deteriorated further due to increased tensions in and around Cyprus and due to the sides disagreeing over the terms of reference, prolonging the stalemate”.
“Neither side has made sufficient effort to avoid unhelpful rhetoric which has further reinforced scepticism amongst the public,” he added.
The report focuses on developments from 11 April 2019 to 30 October 2019, providing an update on the activities carried out by the UNSG`s mission of good offices under the leadership of his Deputy Special Adviser on Cyprus, Elizabeth Spehar.
“While efforts continued during this reporting period towards reaching an agreement on the terms of reference, the backdrop to these efforts has been an increasingly complex situation, with rising tensions in and along the buffer zone, in particular along the northern ceasefire line, as well as over the possible opening of Varosha and over hydrocarbons exploration around Cyprus,” the UNSG said.
He said that with the agreement on the terms of reference still pending, he engaged in separate discussions with the two leaders and other interested parties during their visit to New York at the end of September 2019. “In those discussions, I reconfirmed that my Good Offices remained available to support the parties in their efforts. The leaders agreed to hold a joint informal meeting with me as a potentially constructive step in trying to find a mutually acceptable way forward,” Guterres said.
With respect to Varosha, he said that the UN continues to be guided by relevant Security Council resolutions. The Security Council reiterated on October 4, 2019 that no actions should be taken in relation to Varosha that are not in accordance with its resolutions, including resolutions 550 (1984) and 789 (1992).
“I will continue to monitor developments closely,” Guterres noted.
He said that tensions had also increased over developments related to the fenced-off part of Famagusta, Varosha. “The issue has recently attracted attention since the announcement on 18 June 2019 that the Turkish Cypriot authorities would conduct an inventory study as a first step towards its potential re-opening, followed by visits to the closed-off area by journalists and by four ministers from Turkey, which were facilitated by the Turkish Cypriot authorities,” he added.
He noted that the Republic of Cyprus expressed strong concern over these developments and brought the matter to the attention of the Security Council, which reiterated that no actions should be taken in relation to Varosha that are not in accordance with those resolutions and stressed the importance of implementing the Council’s resolutions.
Guterres said the members of the Security Council also encouraged the leaders to agree on and implement new confidence-building measures. Finally, they urged the sides and all involved participants to refrain from any actions and rhetoric that might affect the chances of success for a settlement,” he said.
As regards the natural resources in and around Cyprus, Guterres said they constituted a strong incentive for a mutually acceptable and durable solution to the Cyprus problem and could serve to engender deeper regional cooperation. “I am monitoring recent developments related to hydrocarbons in and around Cyprus closely and with growing concern. I again urge all relevant parties to exercise restraint and reiterate my call for serious efforts to be made to avoid any further escalation and to defuse tensions,” Guterres stressed.
He said that at a time when the prospects for a resumption of negotiations remain uncertain, the technical committees could be an important vehicle for bringing the two communities closer together, implementing practical and impactful bi-communal initiatives and mobilising support for increased dialogue.
He underscored the importance of the work of the technical committees and the positive impact of confidence-building measures for trust-building between the two communities, expressing the belief that only genuine progress made towards a return to the negotiation table, including through an agreement on the terms of reference, will mark a path to a comprehensive settlement and reassure Cypriots as well as the international community “that prospects for the process truly remain alive”.