The UN secretary general’s special representative in Cyprus and head of the UN peacekeeping force on the island, Elizabeth Spehar, expressed hope on Thursday that “with the requisite political will”, President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader, Mustafa Akinci, “and other parties will return with a sense of urgency to meaningful, results-orientated negotiations to arrive at a comprehensive settlement based on UN parameters.”
Speaking during the Unficyp Winter Medal Parade, Spehar said Unficyp’s task in Cyprus remains an important one. “The work you do, especially to maintain a calm and stable buffer zone, is of paramount importance not only for our operational success but also for the ongoing peace process on the island,” she told peacekeepers.
Moreover, Spehar said that “with the renewal of Unficyp’s mandate in late January for a further six months, you can be very proud of the fact that the contributions of Unficyp are highly appreciated. When I was in New York, the council praised your work and underlined the importance of the mission’s constant presence and daily liaison and engagement activities,” she added.
She also noted that since the mission was established almost 56 years ago, more than 150,000 peacekeepers from 34 nations have served as United Nations peacekeepers in Cyprus.
Spehar said that “while no reunification talks have taken place since July 2017, we have supported the two communities to interact and build greater confidence with each other. With Unficyp’s continuous engagement, the leaders of both sides agreed to the opening of two new crossing points on 12 November 2018, the first such occasion in nine years. In the aftermath of my subsequent interactions with the leaders last year and with the support of the Good Offices, on 11 July 2019, mobile phone interoperability across the island became a reality, improving communication between the communities,” she said.
She went on to say “on 6 December 2019, ably supported by our colleagues from the United Nations Mine Action Service, we announced the clearance of nine suspected hazardous areas on each side of the island, marking the completion of a confidence-building measure agreed upon by both leaders on 26 February 2019 as part of their commitment towards a mine-free Cyprus.”
Furthermore she said “just earlier this month, Ledra Palace Hotel was transformed into an exhibition space showcasing Cypriot artworks and audiovisual recordings which the sides had agreed to exchange.”
The UN official pointed out that “dialogue, trust and cooperation are sine qua non for an enduring peace across Cyprus, and that is what these confidence-building measures are aiming for.”