Expected Council Action
In July, the Council is expected to renew the mandate of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) for an additional six months ahead of its 31 July expiry. The Special Representative and head of mission, Lisa Buttenheim, will likely brief the Council on the latest UNFICYP report and the status of negotiations.
Key Recent Developments
Prior to its last meeting on Cyprus on 30 January, the Council anticipated that Cypriot leaders would agree on a joint communiqué, a precondition set by the Greek Cypriot side for the resumption of unification talks. Despite the impasse in the negotiations process and a failure to agree on the communiqué, the Council extended UNFICYP’s mandate, adopting a technical rollover resolution without including any language that could be interpreted as a form of pressure to reach an agreement (S/RES/2135).
After months of political stalemate and moderate pressure by the UN Secretariat, especially the Secretary-General and his Special Adviser, agreement on a joint communiqué was reached on 11 February. The Council reacted the same day by issuing a long-awaited press statement welcoming the communiqué and the resumption of talks in Cyprus (SC/11273). The Secretary-General issued a statement commending the leaders for their commitment to resuming negotiations and reaching a statement of shared principles, deemed an invaluable basis for renewed talks. The day the communiqué was agreed, Alexander Downer announced that he was stepping down from the position of the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Cyprus, a position he held for more than five years. As there are no concrete plans at this time to find a new candidate for the position, Buttenheim will serve as acting Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on Cyprus as well as Special Representative and head of UNFICYP.
Soon after agreeing on the joint communiqué, Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot negotiators made historic visits to Ankara and Athens respectively, where they met with officials from the foreign affairs ministry of each country. Starting with the adoption of the joint communiqué, the initial screening phase of negotiations was concluded on 15 April. After completing this phase, the negotiations moved to an ongoing substantive phase. During the substantive phase, both sides are expected to submit substantial, counter and bridging proposals for a settlement. Also, both sides have agreed in principle to meet on a more frequent and structured basis, with both leaders meeting once every two weeks and chief negotiators meeting weekly.
During the substantive phase of negotiations, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman visited the island on 5 May. Feltman met with Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Erolglu. Feltman conveyed the strong support of the Secretary-General for a comprehensive settlement and the need to maintain positive momentum in negotiations.
On 21 May, US Vice President Joe Biden visited Cyprus, where he met privately and jointly with both leaders. Biden expressed support for the reunification talks and peace process. He was clear in his remarks that he came to Cyprus “on behalf of the US to help Cypriots get a solution, not to present or impose one”. Though Biden’s visit was important for providing additional impetus for the negotiation process, the main purpose of the visit was to discuss energy and regional security issues. After discoveries, starting in 2011, of hydrocarbon reserves within the coastal waters of Cyprus, exploration and drilling is set to start this year. Should the reserves prove to be substantial, they could serve as an alternative supply of energy to Europe and the wider region. If realised, hydrocarbon reserves have the potential to become a major source of revenue for Cyprus and could possibly provide positive momentum for unification talks.
Although Biden’s visit re-energised the unification talks, many issues remain unresolved. Though there seems to be agreement and convergence on the structure of the legislature, the judicial system and the police, the leaders are still far from agreeing on other important issues. The major ones involve property, displaced persons and the executive branch, on which both sides seem to be far from agreement.
According to media reports, a meeting between Anastasiades and Erolglu on 2 June indicated that, despite some progress since agreeing on the joint communiqué, there was a stalemate in the negotiation process. The leaders seem to disagree about substantive and procedural issues of negotiations. The Greek Cypriot side is accusing the Turkish Cypriot side of not engaging with substantive proposals on all issues and refusing an enhanced EU role in negotiations. On the other hand, Turkish Cypriots are accusing Greek Cypriots of trying to change previously agreed-upon points. In a brief statement following the 2 June meeting, Buttenheim confirmed that the leaders agreed to continue submitting proposals on all core issues and also discussed possible confidence-building measures.
Human Rights-Related Developments
UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Flavia Pansieri presented a report on the situation of human rights in Cyprus to the Human Rights Council (A/HRC/25/21) on 26 March. The report described some positive intercultural and interreligious developments in 2013 but stressed that the continuing division of Cyprus remains an obstacle to the enjoyment of human rights by all. It observed that addressing the underlying human rights issues should be an important part of peacekeeping efforts and that reaching a comprehensive settlement would contribute to improving the human rights situation throughout Cyprus.
The UN Committee against Torture considered the fourth periodic report of Cyprus on 8-9 May and adopted concluding observations and recommendations on 21 May (CAT/C/CYP/CO/4). Several recommendations pertained to detention conditions.
Besides renewing UNFICYP’s mandate, an issue for the Council remains how to facilitate a more substantial process of unification negotiations between Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders. Regarding UNFICYP’s mandate renewal, an issue is how much longer the Council can maintain the mission, established 50 years ago, given finite resources and no real progress in negotiations.
One option for the Council is to again extend UNFICYP in its current configuration for six months.
Another option could be to acknowledge positive momentum resulting from resumption of unification talks in February while simultaneously including additional language that would add a sense of urgency to the issue, pointing out that the process cannot be open-ended.
Issuing a presidential or press statement welcoming progress is an additional option if, before the Council meeting, Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders reach an initial agreement that could enable negotiations on a comprehensive settlement agreement.
Few Council members tend to follow the issue of Cyprus with much attention. Among those that do, the most notable are France, Russia and the UK. Traditionally, the UK has tended to be more sympathetic to the Turkish Cypriot position while France and Russia have been more sympathetic towards the Greek Cypriot position. Judging from recent developments, there seems to be increased interest by the US in finding a solution to the Cyprus issue in the near future.
The Ukrainian crisis has provided a new context for Council dynamics on practically every issue where there are divergences in positions, in particular between Russia and the P3. Regarding Cyprus, Russia tends to support the Greek Cypriot position that the Council should not impose any conditions or timeframe for the negotiations. The UK and other Council members that are frustrated by the longevity of the process are of the view that negotiations should be stimulated by imposing some form of pressure on both sides.
UN Documents on Cyprus
|Security Council Resolution|
|30 January 2014 S/RES/2135||This resolution extended the mandate of UNFICYP for another six months.|
|30 December 2013 S/2013/781||This was a Secretary-General’s report 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.|
|Security Council Press Statement|
|11 February 2014 SC/11273||This was a press statement welcoming the joint communiqué agreed between the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots leaders.|
Other Relevant Facts
Special Representative of the Secretary General and Head of UNFICYP
Lisa M. Buttenheim (USA)
Acting Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on Cyprus
Lisa M. Buttenheim (USA)
UNFICYP: Force Commander
Major General Chao Liu (China)
UNFICYP: Size, Composition, Cost and Duration
Strength (as of 30 April 2014): 859 military personnel, 66 police, 37 international civilian personnel and 110 local civilian staff.Troop Contributors: Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Croatia, Hungary, Paraguay, Serbia, Slovakia, Ukraine and the UK. Annual Budget: $56,604,300 Duration: 4 March 1964 to present.