March 2013 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 February 2013
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EUROPE

Cyprus

 

Note as of 1 April 2013: The expected briefing by Alexander Downer, the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Cyprus, failed to materialize in March. 

Expected Council Action

In March, Council members may be briefed in consultations by Alexander Downer, the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Cyprus, on the prospects for progress in negotiations between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities.

The mandate of the UN Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) expires on 31 July.

Key Recent Developments

The briefing will likely focus on the presidential elections in the Republic of Cyprus. On 17 February, Nicos Anastasiades, of the centre-right party Democratic Rally, won the first round with 45 percent of the vote. Satvros Malas, of the incumbent Progressive Party of Working People (outgoing President Demetris Christofias did not stand for re-election), received 27 percent of the vote. As neither candidate won outright, a run-off election was held on 24 February. Anastasiades won that election with 58 percent of the vote.

Anastasiades was a supporter of the “Annan Plan” in 2004, which proposed the establishment of a federated United Cyprus Republic comprising two component states. However, that plan was decisively defeated in a referendum by the Greek Cypriot community by a 76 percent majority and it is unclear how Anastasiades’s position on a settlement might have evolved since. While previous presidential contests in the Republic of Cyprus have tended to focus on the reunification of the island, the campaign this year focused instead on economic concerns. (Cyprus has been seeking a bailout of 17.5 billion euros from the EU for months.)

Downer completed his most recent visit to Cyprus on 17 January, meeting separately with Christofias for the last time before the elections and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Ero─člu. Both sides expressed their wish to see renewed developments in the hopes of achieving a settlement. On 22 January, Downer announced his intention to visit the island again in March following Greek Cypriot elections and his intention to brief the Council on his visit soon after.

Turkey transmitted a letter to the Security Council on 31 January from the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus at the UN that “reiterate[d] the Turkish Cypriot side’s readiness to engage with the Greek Cypriot side, following elections in the South”. (Turkey is the only country that recognises the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.)

Through resolution 2089 of 24 January, the Council renewed UNFICYP for a period of six months with an abstention by Azerbaijan (S/PV.6908). The text closely resembled resolution 2058, the most recent renewal of UNFICYP, on which both Azerbaijan and Pakistan had abstained. In its explanation of vote, Azerbaijan said that it fully supported the renewal of UNFICYP, but references to the move towards “intensive” negotiations were obsolete as talks had come to a substantive halt by mid-2012. It also claimed that the resolution contained references which were “no longer an issue” and lamented that the bulk of its proposals had not been taken into account.

The adoption of resolution 2089 followed a briefing in consultations on the latest UNFICYP report (S/2013/7) by Special Representative and head of mission, Lisa Buttenheim, on 17 January. The report noted “the continuance of a low level of military violations committed by the two opposing forces” during the reporting period but described the situation along the ceasefire lines as relatively calm and stable.

 Human Rights-Related Developments

On 20 March, during its 22nd session, the Human Rights Council (HRC) will consider the 1 February report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on the question of human rights in Cyprus covering the period from 1 December 2011 to 30 November 2012 (A/HRC/22/18). Based on recent findings of international and regional human rights mechanisms, the report documents instances of human rights concerns and recent developments with regards to the question of missing persons, the principle of non-discrimination, freedom of movement, property rights, freedom of religion and cultural rights, freedom of opinion and expression and the right to education. The report also highlights the importance of adopting a gender perspective when negotiating and implementing peace agreements in line with resolution 1325. OHCHR concludes that the persisting division of the island “continues to constitute an obstacle to the full enjoyment… by the whole population of Cyprus of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

The HRC will also consider on 5 March the report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, on his mission to Cyprus.

Underlying Problems

Since high-level negotiations between Greek and Turkish Cypriots broke down in April 2012, there has been very little progress made towards a political settlement, due in part to Cyprus’s assumption of the EU presidency from 1 July to 31 December 2012 and in part to the ambiguity attendant on a possible change in Greek Cypriot leadership following the February elections. Though both of these conditions have passed, leaders from the two sides continue to hold the other responsible for the lack of progress in the high-level negotiations.

Key Issues

The key issue for the Council is how to re-energise high-level negotiations between the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots that stalled in April 2012. Council members will be interested in hearing Downer’s assessment of how the February elections will impact his efforts to restart negotiations towards finding a solution to the Cyprus issue.

Options

One option for the Council is to simply receive the briefing and take no action. However, should the Council decide to adopt a statement, that statement could do one or more of the following:

  • welcome the recent elections and encourage the new Greek Cypriot president to seek agreement with the Turkish Cypriots;
  • encourage both sides to be constructive in their approach to negotiations; or
  • establish a deadline for renewed negotiations to underscore the urgency of achieving a settlement, and call for a possible review of UNFICYP in light of the continuing lack of progress towards a political solution. (The possibility of a review has been contentious in the past and remains an unlikely option.)
Council Dynamics

Over the past year or so, Cyprus has become a controversial matter in the Council in comparison to previous years. Differences became evident during negotiations on resolution 2058 in July 2012 and centred on the inclusion of language referring to a potential review of UNFICYP. Several members considered such a call to be equivalent to asserting that the situation on the island no longer constituted a threat to international peace and security and so there was no longer any need for the mission. Several Council members, and the Republic of Cyprus, consider the question of a review to be anathema. Negotiations over resolution 2089 were not as divisive as those last July but still demonstrated that some divisions remain on the question of Cyprus.

Some Council members have expressed interest in establishing a new negotiating timetable for Downer to present to the Greek and Turkish Cypriots. However, such a proposal is also likely to be very divisive among Council members, as the Greek Cypriot side seems to be especially opposed to the establishment of such deadlines and Council members who are more sympathetic to the Greek Cypriot position (such as France and Russia) are likely to press their case. 

Nonetheless, most Council members agree that the elections constitute an opportunity for a new beginning for negotiations and renewed attention from the Council on the issue.

The UK is the lead on Cyprus.

UN Documents on Cyprus

Security Council Resolutions  
24 January 2013 S/RES/2089 This resolution renewed UNFICYP for six months.
19 July 2012 S/RES/2058 This resolution extended the mandate of UNFICYP until 31 January 2013.
Secretary-General’s Reports  
7 January 2013 S/2013/7 This was the most recent report on UNFICYP.
12 March 2012 S/2012/149 This was the most recent assessment report of the Secretary-General on the status of the negotiations in Cyprus.
Security Council Meeting Records  
24 January 2013 S/PV.6908 This was a meeting on Cyprus at which resolution 2089 was adopted with 14 votes in favour and one abstention by Azerbaijan.
19 July 2012 S/PV.6809 This was the meeting during which resolution 2058 was adopted.
Human Rights Council Documents  
1 February 2013 A/HRC/22/18 This was the report of the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the question of human rights in Cyprus presented during the 22nd session of the Human Rights Council.
24 December 2012 A/HRC/22/51/Add.1 This was the report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, on his mission to Cyprus.

Other Relevant Facts

UNFICYP: Budget Appropriation (1 July 2012 to 30 June 2013): $54.192 million (one-third of which is funded by the government of Cyprus, with $6.5 million from Greece).

 

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