Expected Council Action
In January, the Council is expected to renew the mandate of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) for a further six months before its mandate expires on 31 January.
The Special Representative and head of UNFICYP, Lisa M. Buttenheim (US), is expected to brief Council members in consultations. The Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Cyprus, Alexander Downer (Australia), who assists the parties in their negotiations, may possibly brief as well.
Resolution 2058 of 19 July 2012 requested the Secretary-General to report by 10 January on developments in Cyprus.
Key Recent Developments
Since Buttenheim and Downer briefed Council members in consultations on 10 July, few significant developments related to the resolution of the Cyprus problem have taken place. During the consultations, summarised in the monthly assessment by the President of the Council (S/2012/629), Downer confirmed via videoconference that no agreement had been reached between the two parties on the way forward in the negotiating process. (In April 2012, Downer provided a private report to the Secretary-General recommending that a multilateral conference on Cyprus should not be called due to insufficient progress in the negotiations. Downer was later quoted as saying that “the risk of failure and of total collapse was way too high, and it would have been reckless of us to have called a multilateral conference.”)
Two key factors are cited as having contributed to the lack of high-level progress towards a political settlement.
The first relates to the Republic of Cyprus assuming the rotating EU presidency on 1 July 2012 for six months. The UN had hoped to convene a multilateral conference before the presidency began, ideally finalising the international elements of a settlement. But previous high-level talks were not productive in resolving the key domestic issues, such as the election of the executive and property. In his statement at the general debate of the General Assembly on 25 September, President Demetris Christofias (Cyprus) said that in response to the assumption of the EU presidency, the Turkish Cypriot leadership had “abandoned the negotiations”. (In his comments on 10 July, Downer said that the Turkish Cypriots had expressed the view that there would be no guarantee that dialogue would continue while Cyprus presided over the EU.) Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, in his statement during the general debate on 28 September, said that the round of talks that began in 2008 on the Cyprus problem was “stuck with no end in sight, due to Greek Cypriots’ intransigence and lack of political will.” (Turkey is the only country that recognises the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and is seen as having close links with the Turkish Cypriot leadership.)
The second important factor is that Cyprus is scheduled to hold presidential elections on 17 February and President Christofias is not standing for re-election. The impending change in the Greek Cypriots’ leadership—combined with Cyprus’s EU presidency—has essentially resulted in the abandonment of prospects for high-level negotiations before February. In a visit to Cyprus in November 2012, Downer emphasised that while his good-offices team looks forward to working with the next Greek Cypriot leader, whoever that is, the presidential election is solely a matter for the Cypriots and not the international community.
During his November visit, where he met with both leaders, Downer clarified that his team had kept “notes and records” throughout the electoral process and as the presidential elections drew nearer that work would be consolidated. These comments were in reference to suggestions that Downer would prepare a paper or report that would be presented to both leaders after the election cataloguing the convergences made in negotiations in recent years.
With President Christofias not running for re-election, there will be added interest in the positions of the three main candidates on the “Cyprus problem.” Stavros Malas is from the incumbent Progressive Party of Working People, while the candidate leading in the polls is Nicos Anastasiades, leader of Democratic Rally, and Giorgos Lillikas is an independent. Of note, Anastasiades was a supporter of the “Annan Plan” in 2004, which proposed—ultimately unsuccessfully—the establishment of a federated United Cyprus Republic comprising two component states.
Another issue that Downer has focused on recently is revitalising the technical committees that were established in 2008 to help find solutions to everyday problems that people on the island face because of its divisions. (One such example was reaching agreement to allow ambulances to cross the dividing line in emergency cases.) While there is some optimism about the work that these technical committees can do, it seems that there has been little meaningful progress since high-level talks stalled in April 2012.
One underlying problem is that the leaders from the two sides hold the other responsible for the lack of progress in the high-level negotiations. Blame is attributed to both sides for not being prepared to make the bold concessions necessary to break the present impasse.
Another apparent problem, related to the differing historical perspectives, is a propensity for looking to the past, including the failed Annan Plan in 2004, as well as the perceived relative flexibility of the other’s earlier leaders, rather than focusing on pragmatic solutions in the present.
Finally, any settlement reached between the two sides is likely to be voted on by the two communities in referenda, as in 2004. This makes the success of any proposed settlement unpredictable.
A key issue for the Council is whether it should be actively encouraging a political settlement of the Cyprus problem in its resolutions or whether the talks are ultimately best served by simply renewing UNFICYP’s mandate.
A related issue, which arose prominently in July 2012 when the Council last considered UNFICYP, was whether—and how—to refer to a potential review of the long-standing peacekeeping mission.
A further important issue that relates to the political messages inferred from Council resolutions is whether there should be any reference to the lack of tangible progress since the last resolution.
One likely option for the Council in January, particularly with the election of the new Greek Cypriot president soon thereafter, is simply to adopt a resolution rolling over UNFICYP’s mandate for a further six months.
Another, less likely, option would be for the Council to encourage both sides to make greater headway towards a durable settlement in 2013. Such a resolution could emphasise the important economic benefits for all Cypriots that a comprehensive settlement would allow for or specify other mutually beneficial incentives.
During the negotiations leading up to the adoption of resolution 2058, interesting dynamics emerged that resulted in the renewal receiving much attention from Council members. This heightened interest in the text extended to several elected members and was particularly notable given that UNFICYP’s renewals had previously been agreed on by the P5 with minimal input from other—especially non-EU—members. Much of the debate centred on the inclusion of language referencing a review of UNFICYP. While the final text welcomed the continuing review of all peacekeeping missions to ensure efficiency and effectiveness, “including a review of UNFICYP when appropriate,” it did not specify that a specific review should take place. The rationale for the suggestion was to ensure that the mission composition was appropriate, possibly with an eye towards potential savings.
However, several members—permanent and elected—took issue with the insertion of such language in the text and argued that a technical review at that juncture was not justified. Some states argued that at a sensitive time in the negotiating process, sending such a message would be interpreted as the Council saying that the situation on the ground had altered or been accepted— something which the Republic of Cyprus was seemingly loath to see happen.
Azerbaijan, which has been sympathetic to the Turkish Cypriot position, asserted that the final text did not give sufficient weight to a “results-orientated process” and did not appropriately reflect a sense of encouraging the review. It abstained. Pakistan also abstained, saying that the Council could have done better “from the point of view of both procedure and substance.” It lamented that insufficient time was given for all Council members to negotiate the text.
Although there are unlikely to be significant changes in the Council dynamic, eyes will also turn in January to the positions of the five incoming members.
The UK is the lead on the issue.
UN Documents on Cyprus
|Security Council Resolutions|
|19 July 2012 S/RES/2058||This resolution extended the mandate of UNFICYP until 31 January 2013.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|19 July 2012 S/PV.6809||This was the meeting during which resolution 2058 was adopted.|
Other Relevant Facts
Budget Appropriation (1 July 2012 to 30 June 2013): $56.97 million (one-third of which is funded by the government of Cyprus, with $6.5 million from Greece).