Expected Council Action
In July, the Council is expected to renew the mandate of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) for another six months, ahead of its expiry on 31 July. Elizabeth Spehar, the new Special Representative and head of the mission, will brief the Council on the latest UNFICYP report, which is due in early July. Special Adviser Espen Barth Eide is expected to brief on the progress in the negotiations between Greek and Turkish Cypriots.
Key Recent Developments
The current round of unification talks in Cyprus, which started officially on 15 May 2015, has continued steadily in 2016 despite some minor interruptions. When it last discussed the issue in January, the Council adopted resolution 2263, which extended UNFICYP’s mandate and acknowledged the positive momentum and atmosphere in the unification talks in Cyprus. The talks have now entered a more intensive phase, during which Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci committed to increase the frequency of their meetings with the aim of reaching a solution this year.
On 30 March, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced a change in the leadership of UNFICYP, appointing Elizabeth Spehar (Canada) to the post of Special Representative and the head of the mission. She formally assumed her duties on 13 June, succeeding Lisa Buttenheim, who had occupied the post since 2010.
Marking the anniversary of the ongoing round of talks on 15 May, the two leaders issued a joint statement in which they expressed satisfaction with the progress made so far, while stressing their determination to work on resolving outstanding issues “with an aim of reaching a comprehensive settlement agreement within 2016”.
During 23 and 24 May, Anastasiades attended the UN Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, but he cut his visit short on 23 May, following what he perceived to be a breach of diplomatic protocol when Akinci was invited to one of the receptions for the heads of state. As a result, Anastasiades announced that he would suspend the ongoing unification talks. In a phone conversation with Anastasiades on 27 May, Ban reiterated that the UN policy towards Cyprus remains unchanged. The Republic of Cyprus is a member of the UN, and the bi-communal dialogue on the Cyprus issue which takes place under UN auspices is, he said, “based on relevant UN Security Council resolutions”. Following the phone call, Anastasiades announced that he would resume negotiations with Akinci.
In an effort to promote confidence-building measures, the Technical Committee on Education organised an event in a buffer zone on 2 June aimed at bringing together students and educators from both communities. Both Cypriot leaders attended the event and used the opportunity to meet informally. On 7 June, Eide met separately with Anastasiades and Akinci. In addressing the media following the meetings, Eide said that the leaders would work on creating a joint catalogue that would list issues where achievements have been made and those that require more work. According to Eide, this would enable both Cypriot leaders to have a more structured approach towards negotiations.
Following the suspension of talks in May, the formal negotiations between the Cypriot leaders resumed on 8 June. During the meeting, both Anastasiades and Akinci agreed to increase the intensity of the negotiations and resolve outstanding issues in a more structured manner. The current intense phase of negotiations, during which the leaders agreed to hold two meetings per week, commenced on 17 June. Though no specific details about the talks have been made public, both Cypriot leaders have expressed their optimism regarding the possibility of reaching a solution.
Both the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have offered technical assistance to Cyprus and have been working on possible solutions to secure sustainable public finances and a unified economy in light of the prospects for the island’s reunification.
In addition to the UNFICYP mandate renewal, the primary issue for the Council is how to help support the current momentum in negotiations and facilitate progress in the unification talks between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders.
A looming issue for the Council is the possibility of reconfiguring and downsizing the mission.
The most probable option for the Council is to renew UNFICYP’s mandate in its current configuration for another six months.
Another option for the Council would be to recognise the current positive trend in negotiations while adding a sense of urgency to the issue by insisting that the ongoing process cannot be open-ended, considering that UNFICYP has been present on the island for more than 50 years.
If concrete progress is made in the negotiations, the Council could issue a statement welcoming the positive development.
Cyprus still remains an issue of low-intensity on the Council’s agenda, followed closely by few Council members—most notably France, Russia and the UK. Recently, it seems that the US has become more engaged in seeking a solution to the Cyprus question, as the island continues to gain strategic importance due to its potential hydrocarbon resources and its location vis à vis the ongoing fight against terrorism in the Middle East.
Despite Council-wide support for the continued negotiations, some divergences persist regarding the timeframe and conditions related to the unification talks. Some Council members, in particular the UK, seem frustrated by the longevity of the process. These members seem to think it would be beneficial to impose some sort of pressure on both sides to stimulate the negotiations. Conversely, Russia strictly opposes any conditions or a timeframe for negotiation process imposed by external actors. This is also the Greek Cypriot position.
Although the most recent UNFICYP renewal resolution received unanimous support from Council members, Russia and Egypt voiced their dissatisfaction with the inability of the penholder (the UK) to address their proposed changes to the draft. Given the current positive political environment surrounding the negotiations, it is likely that negotiations for the UNFICYP draft resolution will not be contentious. The prevailing view is that the Council should renew UNFICYP’s mandate without raising any issues that could negatively affect the ongoing negotiations on the island.
|Security Council Resolution|
|28 January 2016 S/RES/2263||The Council extended UNFICYP’s mandate for six months.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|28 January 2016 S/PV.7613||This was a vote on resolution 2263.|
|Security Council Press Statement|
|15 May 2015 SC/11894||This was a press statement welcoming the resumption of the settlement talks.|