March 2011 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 February 2011
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Expected Council Action

In March, the Secretary-General’s special adviser on Cyprus, Alexander Downer, will brief Council members in informal consultations on the Secretary-General’s good-offices report expected by the end of February. It is unclear whether the Council will take any action following the consultations.

The mandate of the UNFICYP expires on 15 June.

Key Recent Developments

On 8 December 2010, Lisa Buttenheim, the Secretary-General’s special representative and head of UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), briefed Council members in informal consultations. The Secretary-General’s report canvassed UNFICYP’s role in maintaining stability and its support of humanitarian functions throughout the reporting period. It noted the good cooperation between the peacekeeping force and both opposing parties and a decrease in military violations by the latter. The report also detailed continuing day-to-day challenges for civilians created by the reality on the ground, along with the progress achieved in demining activities in the buffer zone and in the work of the bicommunal committee on missing persons. Additionally, it mentioned the Secretary-General’s intent to conduct a broader assessment of the UN’s presence in Cyprus and make recommendations for further adjustments in light of developments in the talks.

On 14 December, the Council extended UNFICYP’s mandate for another six months in resolution 1953. The resolution took note of the recommendations of the Secretary-General in his latest good-offices report. The Council expressed its concern over the slow pace of negotiations and strongly urged the leaders of the two sides to “intensify the momentum in the negotiations” and develop “a practical plan for overcoming the major remaining points of disagreement” in time for their upcoming meeting with the Secretary-General in January.

Turkey voted against the resolution (as it did when the three previous UNFICYP extensions came up for a vote since it joined the Council in January 2009), reiterating in an explanation of the vote its objection to the text’s reference to the Government of Cyprus as the sole government of the island. It also asserted that the resolution fell short of reflecting the Secretary-General’s view in his report on the good-offices mission that the talks “cannot be an open-ended process” and his fear that “a critical window of opportunity is rapidly closing.”

On 26 January, Turkish Cypriot leader Derviş Eroğlu and Greek Cypriot president Demetris Christofias met with the Secretary-General in Geneva. Following the meeting, the Secretary-General told reporters that both sides have agreed to intensify talks.

On 9 February, the two leaders met in Nicosia and agreed to meet on a weekly basis, while their representatives will meet twice a week. On 17 February, the two leaders met again and affirmed the progress made in the two previous representatives’ meetings on the issues of economy and EU matters.

On 8 February, the Secretary-General briefed Council members on his recent travels, including his Geneva meeting. He said that little progress had been made with respect to the substantive differences between the opposing sides, in particular on the property issue. In his remarks to the press following the briefing, the Secretary-General mentioned the positive atmosphere between the two leaders and his intention to meet with both in the near future.

On 6 December, the Council held a closed meeting with troop and police-contributing countries for UNFICYP (S/PV.6435).

On 20 January, in an event commemorating six years of UN demining activities in Cyprus, Buttenheim stated that demining activities in the areas agreed upon by the opposing parties will conclude in February. Since November 2004, the UN mine-action programme has cleared over 27,000 mines in 74 mine fields throughout the buffer zone, in an area extending more than 9.7 square kilometres. Buttenheim added that, currently, there is no agreement between the two sides to extend demining operations to other areas.

Human Rights-Related Developments

The annual report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Cyprus will be presented at the March session of the Human Rights Council. The report notes some positive developments, including the opening on 14 October of a seventh crossing point through the buffer zone in the northwest of the island, facilitating access to Nicosia. The opening of this crossing point is seen as an important confidence-building measure for the ongoing negotiations. However, the persisting division of Cyprus continues to have human rights consequences, affecting freedom of movement, missing persons, discrimination, freedom of religion and economic, social and cultural rights. The report will express the hope that the current efforts by the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders to negotiate and achieve a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem will lead to improvements in the human rights situation on the island.


Key Issues

A key issue for the Council is whether to be proactive in encouraging further progress in the reunification talks and in implementing confidence-building measures. A related issue is what procedural steps the Council could take to push the parties towards speedier and more substantive progress.

A related issue is how the status of the talks should impact the reconfiguration of, and an eventual exit strategy for, UNFICYP.


Options for the Council include:

  • taking no action at this time;
  • adopting a statement that picks up the key element of the Secretary-General’s new report and encourages the parties to reach a settlement, emphasising that the process cannot be indefinite;
  • encouraging Downer to play a more assertive role in the talks between the opposing sides in an attempt to bolster their momentum; or
  • adopting a statement focusing more on possible confidence-building measures.

Council Dynamics

At press time, Council members had yet to receive the latest report on the good- offices mission. While media coverage and statements by UN officials point to encouraging signs in the rhetoric of the parties toward the talks and in the environment surrounding the negotiations, many members are concerned that there is no real substantive progress on the unresolved core issues, such as property, territory, security arrangements and international guarantees. Some Council members seem to hope that Downer will be explicit about what he believes the next steps should be in the negotiation process and what incentives might be given to the two sides in order to advance the negotiations.

Though there seems to be a consensus on the need for the Council to support a final settlement of the Cyprus issue, Council members continue to hold divergent views on the way to achieve such a solution. These differences lead some Council members to believe that attempting to negotiate an agreed public response following the consultations may be difficult.

Russia is inclined to the Greek Cypriot position, which opposes setting timelines it deems as “arbitrary” for reaching a solution to the Cyprus situation. It also opposes exerting pressure on the parties—for example by endorsing the Turkish initiative to convene a four-party conference comprising the two sides, Turkey and Greece. China similarly believes that the Council should continue to support the bilateral talks, pretty much as it has done so far. The US seems open to any format that the opposing sides think may help the process. The UK seems less patient about continued UN involvement in Cyprus, and would like to see how this involvement is facilitating a successful culmination of the talks.

Council members are aware that the 22 May parliamentary elections in Cyprus and 12 June general elections in Turkey may further hinder reaching a settlement in the near future. While some Council members take the view that these elections should encourage the sides to make haste in their talks, others suggest that the Council should accept that the talks will continue at the pace the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots see fit.

UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolution

  • S/RES/1953 (14 December 2010) renewed UNFICYP’s mandate until 15 June, urged the leaders of the two sides to “intensify the momentum in the negotiations” and develop “a practical plan for overcoming the major remaining points of disagreement.”

Latest Secretary-General’s Reports

  • S/2010/605 (26 November 2010) was on UNFICYP.
  • S/2010/603 (24 November 2010) was on the good-offices mission in Cyprus.


  • S/PV.6445 (14 December 2010) was the meeting record of the Council’s adoption of resolution 1953 with Turkey’s explanation of vote.
  • S/2010/570 (2 November 2010) was a letter from Turkey responding to Christofias’ statement in the General Assembly on 24 September.

Other Relevant Facts

UNFICYP: Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of Mission

Lisa M. Buttenheim (USA)

UNFICYP: Force Commander

Maj. Gen. Chao Liu (China)

UNFICYP: Size, Composition, Cost and Duration

Strength (as of 31 December 2010): 922 military personnel, 68 police, 37 international civilian personnel and 113 local civilian staff

Troop contributors: Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Hungary, Paraguay, Peru, Serbia, Slovakia and the UK

Annual Budget: $58 million

Duration: 4 March 1964 to present; mandate expires 15 June


Useful Additional Resource

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