By Apostolis Zoupaniotis
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has recommended the extension of the UN peace-keeping force’s mandate for six more months, until July 31 2020, reiterating his commitment to explore the possibility of convening an informal five-party meeting with the island’s leaders and the guarantor powers.
“In this regard, I again urge the leaders, the guarantor powers, and other interested parties to make productive use of the coming period,” Guterres said in his report on Unficyp, an unofficial copy of which was handed over on Thursday evening to UN Security Council members.
The Security Council will be briefed by the UN Secretary General’s special representative in Cyprus on January 20, while the adoption of the resolution has been scheduled for January 30.
In the meantime, Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides said on Friday that the government has discussed several scenarios if a solution is not found and Unficyp withdraws.
“If it continues to remain an unresolved problem, for certain Unficyp will not continue its presence here,” Christodoulides told state broadcaster CyBC.
He said, his ministry in cooperation with those of defence and interior and the police, have done tabletop exercises on this scenario or reduction of the force. He gave no further details.
But for the time being, the presence of Unficyp is more or less certain.
The UNSG said in his report that “during the period under review, Unficyp continued to play a crucial role in monitoring, engagement and liaison in response to violations and low-level tensions. Its continued presence remains essential to the creation of conditions conducive to a political settlement. In recognition of the continued contribution by Unficyp to the maintenance of peace and stability, I recommend that the Security Council extend the mission’s mandate until 31 July 2020,” he added.
Guterres said the absence of a resolution of the Cyprus issue was not sustainable, “which I continue to firmly believe. The lack of negotiations since July 2017 does not mean that the situation on the island remains unchanged, both at the political level and in the buffer zone.”
The UNSG said that “as highlighted in the framework of my Action for Peacekeeping initiative, there is a direct link between the mandates of peacekeeping and good offices missions, where on the one hand the prevention of an escalation of tensions on the ground contributes to conditions conducive to advancing political solutions to conflicts, and on the other hand, progress toward a political agreement can contribute to a calmer and more stable situation. In the case of Cyprus, I note that since the closing of the Conference on Cyprus in Crans-Montana, over time, tensions on the ground have progressively increased.”
Referring to his meeting with Anastasiades and Akinci on November 25 in Berlin, he noted that following their frank and focused discussions “I continue to hold out hope that a durable settlement to the Cyprus problem can be achieved. I welcome the leaders’ commitment and determination to achieve a settlement based on a bizonal, bicommunal federation with political equality as set out in the relevant Security Council resolutions, including Security Council Resolution 716 (1991).”
“As acknowledged in Berlin, this time must be different. I reiterate my commitment to explore with the Turkish Cypriot leader and the Greek Cypriot leader and with the guarantor powers the possibility to convene an informal five-plus-UN meeting at an appropriate stage. In this regard, I again urge the leaders, the guarantor powers and other interested parties to make productive use of the coming period,” he added.
Guterres said that he continued to monitor developments relating to hydrocarbons closely and with concern.
“I have repeatedly stressed that the natural resources found in and around Cyprus should benefit both communities and constitute a strong incentive for all parties to find a mutually acceptable and durable solution to the Cyprus problem.”
Guterres also noted that “in their efforts to promote closer cooperation between the communities, local non-governmental actors and those who support them continue to be confronted with challenges and obstacles linked to the status of the north and concerns relating to `recognition`”.
The UNSG also said that during the reporting period, the fenced-off city of Famagusta (Varosha) gained increased attention “due to public statements made by the Turkish Cypriot side and high-level visits organised to the closed-off area by authorities in the north.”