Expected Council Action
In January, the Council is expected to renew the mandate of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) for another six months ahead of its 31 January expiry. Lisa Buttenheim, the Special Representative and head of mission, will most likely brief on the forthcoming UNFICYP report, due by 10 January.
The Special Adviser on Cyprus, Alexander Downer, may also brief the Council on the status of negotiations. Downer’s briefing might be accompanied by a report on the Secretary-General’s good offices mission (the last such report was on 12 March 2012). The timing and possibility of Downer’s briefing will largely depend on whether there is progress in negotiations.
If Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders agree on a joint communiqué, the Council might issue a press statement welcoming this development.
Key Recent Developments
In resolution 2114 adopted on 30 July, the Council noted insufficient progress towards reaching a comprehensive and durable settlement and reiterated its call for both parties to “put their efforts behind further work on reaching convergences on core issues”. The resolution also welcomed the intention to resume negotiations in October. This, however, did not materialise due to the failure of Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders to agree on a joint communiqué.
The last high-level negotiations between the parties broke down in April 2012, and there has been no substantial progress since towards reaching a settlement. The beginning of 2013 was marked by the election of a new Greek Cypriot president, Nicos Anastasiades, and the continuing economic crisis on the island. The last few months were marked by increased efforts by the international community and pressure from the UN on both sides to reach agreement.
Considering that formal negotiations did not take place in October, Downer has made numerous attempts to revitalise the talks, meeting bilaterally with both leaders on several occasions. Despite these efforts, the negotiations did not resume because of Greek Cypriot insistence on a joint communiqué as a precondition for further talks. For Greek Cypriots, the joint communiqué should include the principles of single sovereignty, single citizenship and single international Cypriot state personality. Turkish Cypriot leaders insist that federated states must be considered founding states in a reunited Cyprus, thus giving them sovereignty and residual powers to decide such matters as citizenship. Turkish Cypriots, however, are willing to enter negotiations without any preconditions.
Following a 1 November meeting with Downer on the negotiations, the Secretary-General said there was a “limited window of opportunity to achieve a comprehensive settlement in Cyprus” and expressed concern that a continuing deadlock over a joint communiqué has hampered a return to talks. The Secretary-General also said he hoped that both sides would overcome the current impasse during Downer’s next visit to the island on 4-8 November and resume negotiations. Greek Cypriot leaders perceived this statement as a de facto ultimatum by the UN, which they strongly oppose in the negotiation process.
Downer arrived in Cyprus on 6 November, however, meetings with Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders once again did not result in an agreement on the joint communiqué.
The two leaders met again on 25 November in what was called an informal meeting that had been initiated by Anastasiades, with no progress on the issue of the joint communiqué. Addressing the media, Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu said that he had proposed to Anastasiades that they skip the joint declaration and resume negotiations; Anastasiades pointed out that there was still a long way to go before reaching the desired outcome that would allow for resumption of talks.
In his latest effort to re-energise the process, Downer travelled back to Cyprus on 9 December and held meetings with both sides. Downer said the talks were at a critical and very sensitive stage, with both sides working hard to formulate a mutually acceptable statement. He shared no concrete details on progress nor did Greek or Turkish Cypriot leaders elaborate on the state of or possible progress in the talks. At press time, agreement on a joint communiqué had not been reached.
There seems to be mounting pressure from the international community, especially the UN, for leaders to resume negotiations and reach agreement on outstanding issues. The main obstacle seems to be the issue of sovereignty.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 12 September, the first Interreligious Roundtable was held in Cyprus with the participation of the Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief. On 16 October, Bishop Christoforos of Karpasia was allowed to visit and worship at a monastery in the north-east of Cyprus. The Grand Mufti of Cyprus, Talip Atalay visited the areas controlled by the government of the Republic of Cyprus on 18 October. On 22 October the Rapporteur said that the crossing of the Green Line by Muslim and Greek Orthodox religious leaders constituted a huge leap for the religious communities concerned and noted that such cooperation on the whole island created a fertile ground for addressing the underlying human rights issues.
The main issue for the Council remains how to re-energise negotiations between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. With the fiftieth anniversary of UNFICYP’s deployment next year, the looming issue is how long should the status quo be allowed to continue and whether the Council should contemplate downsizing the mission.
The most likely option for the Council is to extend the mandate of UNFICYP for another six months.
Another option would be to include additional text in the resolution calling on both parties to resume negotiations.
A further option would be to ask the Secretary-General to review the mission and recommend options contingent on the different scenarios that might unfold in the negotiating process.
If agreement is reached on a joint communiqué, the Council could issue a press statement welcoming the progress.
Only a few Council members follow the issue of Cyprus closely, most notably the UK, France and Russia. The UK tends to be more sympathetic to the Turkish Cypriot side, while France and Russia are more sympathetic to the Greek Cypriot side. The dynamics of the Council might change slightly with incoming members Lithuania and Jordan, who will be replacing Azerbaijan and Pakistan, which were sympathetic to the Turkish Cypriot side and abstained on most UNFICYP renewals during their tenure on the Council in 2012-2013.
All Council members are in favour of continued negotiations in Cyprus. However, some differences remain over the conditions and timeframe for talks. The Greek Cypriot position, which is shared by Russia, is that the Council should impose neither conditions nor a timeframe for the negotiations. Others, mainly the UK, are of the view that some pressure should be applied to both sides in order to stimulate the negotiations.
The UK is the penholder on Cyprus.
UN Documents on Cyprus
|Security Council Resolution|
|30 July 2013 S/RES/2114||This resolution extended the mandate of UNFICYP for six months.|
|5 July 2013 S/2013/392||This was a report of the Secretary-General on UNFICYP.|
|12 March 2012 S/2012/149||This was the assessment report of the Secretary-General on the status of the negotiations in Cyprus.|
Other Relevant Facts
Special Representative of the Secretary General and Head of UNFICYP
Lisa M. Buttenheim (USA)
Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on Cyprus
Alexander Downer (Australia)
UNFICYP: Force Commander
Major General Chao Liu (China)
UNFICYP: Size, Composition, Cost and Duration
Strength (as of 31 October 2013): 860 military personnel, 68 police, 38 international civilian personnel and 109 local civilian staff.
Troop Contributors: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Croatia, Hungary, Paraguay, Serbia, Slovakia, Ukraine and the UK.
Annual Budget: $ 56,604,300
Duration: 4 March 1964 to present.