November 2011 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 October 2011
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Expected Council Action
In December, the Council is expected to renew the mandate of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) for another six months.  The Secretary-General is due to submit a report by 1 December and a briefing by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of Mission, Lisa Buttenheim, is expected before the renewal of the mandate. It appears unlikely that the Council’s decision will differ significantly from resolution 1986, which was the last mandate renewal. UNFICYP’s current mandate expires on 15 December.

A new report on the good offices mission of the Secretary-General to Cyprus is not expected until after a new round of tripartite talks between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders and the Secretary-General scheduled for January, but the report on UNFICYP is likely to mention similar talks that occurred in October. The last report of the Secretary-General on his mission of good offices was submitted on 8 August. 
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Key Recent Developments
In resolution 1986 adopted on 13 June, the Council reiterated its call for the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders to “intensify the momentum of negotiations” and “improve the public atmosphere in which the negotiations are proceeding.”

On 7 July, in Geneva, the Secretary-General held another meeting with the Greek Cypriot President, Dimitris Christofias, and the Turkish Cypriot leader, Dervis Eroglu. (This was the Secretary-General’s third such meeting since November 2010.) He reported after the meeting that he had discussed with the leaders the need to significantly intensify the negotiations and had offered enhanced UN involvement. He described the atmosphere as “quite positive”.

In his August report to the Council on the status of negotiations, the Secretary-General indicated that “time was not on the side of a settlement” and that Cypriots on both sides were losing faith in the process. He also expressed concern that “the talks were beginning to drift” and described progress as “sluggish”. Overall, the report conveyed a sense of urgency and underlined the need for the leaders of the two sides to reach a solution soon. The Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Cyprus, Alexander Downer, briefed Council members on the report in informal consultations on 7 September.

On 30 and 31 October, the Secretary-General held another meeting with Christofias and Eroglu at the Greentree Estate in Manhasset outside New York. There were substantive discussions on four core issues: governance and power-sharing, in particular focusing on the issue of the executive (i.e. the presidency); property; territory; and citizenship. (The talks focus on seven main issues; substantive convergence has so far been reported on EU matters, the economy and internal aspects of security.) 

The Secretary-General described the talks as “positive, productive and vigorous,” and expressed confidence that a settlement could be achieved. He said he had invited the two leaders to meet with him again in January and by then expected all “internal aspects” of the Cyprus problem to be resolved. This should be followed by a multilateral conference shortly thereafter. Downer briefed Council members on the Manhasset meeting in informal consultations on 4 November.  

On 16 November, Buttenheim announced that Christofias and Eroglu had agreed on a schedule of meetings leading up to the January meeting with the Secretary-General. She said the two leaders planned to meet roughly once a week, and in some cases might meet twice. Buttenheim also said the UN would hold discussions with the leaders separately as this was a formula they had found to be useful at the October meeting in Manhasset.  

On 15 November, US company Noble Energy announced that exploratory drilling had found that the coastal waters of Cyprus could yield 3 to 9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Turkey has indicated that continued exploration by Cyprus could harm reunification talks, while Christofias has argued it could be an incentive as revenues from the find would be shared by both sides in a reunified Cyprus.

Cyprus will serve as the president of the EU in the second half of 2012.

Key Issues
The main issue for the Council in December is the renewal of UNFICYP’s mandate and how, if at all, the status of the reunification talks should impact the reconfiguration of the mission and its eventual exit strategy.

A related issue is how the Council can most effectively promote speedier and more substantive progress in the negotiations.  

Main options for the Council include:

  • renewing the mandate of UNFICYP at its current configuration for another six months;
  • including new language reflecting the outcome of the talks held in October to encourage progress in the negotiations leading up to the meeting with the Secretary-General scheduled for January; or
  • including additional language to increase the sense of urgency surrounding the issue by emphasising that the process cannot be indefinite, renewing the mandate for only three months and establishing the January tripartite meeting and the report thereon as an important benchmark for the re-consideration of further UN involvement.

Council Dynamics
Only a few key Council members seem to follow the Cyprus issue with any close interest. Among these, there continues to be a split between those leaning towards the Greek Cypriots, such as Russia and to some extent France, and those, including the UK, more sympathetic to the Turkish Cypriot side. 

While Council members seem to agree that the next round of tripartite talks on Cyprus scheduled for January will be an important next step, views differ on the implications for UNFICYP and further UN involvement. In particular there are divisions over the quality and quantity of pressure that should be applied to both sides of the Cyprus dispute in the coming months. (This has been an issue also in past UNFICYP negotiations.) There are also differences over the implications of a failure by the parties to make any substantive progress by January.

From certain quarters on the Council there is a sense that the talks in January will need to show true progress in order to warrant continued Council attention on Cyprus. Without such progress, according to this view, the discussion will need to focus on winding down UNFICYP and developing an exit strategy.

Other Council members, however, are adamantly against imposing any timeframe or timetable on the process currently underway or in any other way applying pressure to what are perceived to be delicate and sensitive negotiations. (This is also the Greek Cypriot position.) These members believe whatever action is taken in the Council must not damage the current process and that ultimately a solution on the island is the responsibility of the two sides involved.  The Council, they argue, must be sensitive to this reality and act accordingly.

The UK has the lead on Cyprus in the Council. Draft resolutions on UNFICYP are normally agreed between the P5 before being presented to the ten elected Council members.

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UN Documents

Security Council Resolution

  • S/RES/1986 (13 June 2011) renewed UNFICYP’s mandate until 15 December.

Secretary-General’s Reports

  • S/2011/498 (8 August 2011) was on the status of the reunification talks.
  • S/2011/332 (31 May 2011) was the most recent UNFICYP report.
  • S/2011/112 (4 March 2011) was on the good-offices mission in Cyprus. .

Other Relevant Facts

Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNFICYP

Lisa M. Buttenheim (USA)

UNFICYP: Force Commander

Maj. Gen. Chao Liu (China)

UNFICYP: Size, Composition, Cost and Duration

Strength (as of 31 October 2011): 856 military personnel, 66 police, 41 international civilian personnel and 112 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 December

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