July 2024 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 June 2024
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EUROPE

Cyprus

Expected Council Action

In July, Security Council members are expected to receive a briefing in consultations on the situation in Cyprus. Special Representative and Head of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) Colin Stewart is expected to brief.

UNFICYP’s mandate expires on 31 January 2025.

Key Recent Developments

Over the past six months, there has been no meaningful progress on the political front and no direct formal engagement between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders in the context of unification talks, which have been stalled since the collapse of negotiations in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, in July 2017. The two sides have maintained alternative positions on the appropriate framework for resolving the Cyprus issue: the Greek Cypriots remain firmly committed to a settlement based on a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation (BBF) with political equality, as stipulated in previous Security Council resolutions, while Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar insists on a two-state solution based on sovereign equality.

On 5 January, the Secretary-General announced the appointment of María Angela Holguín Cuéllar, a former Colombian foreign affairs minister, as his Personal Envoy on Cyprus, responsible for assuming a good offices role “to search for common ground on the way forward and to advise [Guterres] on the Cyprus issue”. In a press release issued the same day, Türkiye’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Türkiye and the Turkish Cypriot side had given their consent to the Personal Envoy’s appointment on two conditions: that the envoy’s mandate be limited to “exploring whether common ground exists or not between the two sides…for the start of new, formal settlement negotiations” and that it not exceed six months.

According to media reports, Holguín Cuéllar’s mandate was expected to be extended by three months. However, in a 7 June statement, Tatar’s office claimed that the reports of Holguín Cuéllar’s mandate extension were untrue, adding that Tatar would “continue to work constructively with the Personal Envoy in the remaining 1 month” of her mandate.

Resolution 2723 of 30 January, which renewed UNFICYP’s mandate for another year, welcomed the Secretary-General’s appointment of a Personal Envoy on Cyprus and urged the sides to seize the opportunity presented by this development. It also encouraged the two sides to engage constructively with the envoy in the search for common ground with the goal of returning to formal negotiations for a lasting settlement in Cyprus.

Holguín Cuéllar has engaged in extensive shuttle diplomacy since taking office in January. She made her inaugural visit to Cyprus in late January, meeting with the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders, Nikos Christodoulides and Tatar, respectively. During her stay, she also engaged with local actors and civil society organisations, including women and youth groups. Subsequently, on 6 February, she held meetings in Athens, Greece, followed by engagements in Ankara, Türkiye, on 8 February. On 7 and 8 March, Holguín Cuéllar visited London for meetings with UK officials, thereby concluding her visits to the three guarantor powers (Greece, Türkiye, and the UK) under the 1960 treaty guaranteeing the independence, territorial integrity, and security of Cyprus.

On 11 March, Holguín Cuéllar returned to the island for a second round of meetings with Christodoulides, Tatar, political parties, civil society, and religious representatives from both communities.

On 29 April, she visited Brussels for meetings with high-level EU officials, including European Council President Charles Michel.

She conducted her third trip to Cyprus, in addition to visiting Ankara and Athens, from 7 to 14 May. According to media reports, Holguín Cuéllar proposed a trilateral meeting with the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders. However, on 8 May, Tatar announced that he had rejected the proposal.

On 5 April, Tatar met with UN Secretary-General António Guterres in New York, after which he reiterated his scepticism regarding the Personal Envoy’s mandate, saying he did not believe Holguín Cuéllar could find common ground between the two sides. Tatar urged all parties to recognise the existence of “two peoples, two democratic states, two authorities” and also warned against flare-ups of tensions on the island, saying how “little misunderstanding[s]” such as an accidental shooting of Turkish soldiers could “turn the situation [in Cyprus] into a new Gaza”. The following day, Nicosia described Tatar’s remarks as incompatible with the future of their “mutual” homeland.

Key Issues and Options

Since the collapse of the 2017 unification talks in Crans-Montana, the key issue for the Security Council has been the lack of meaningful progress on the political front and the need to reinvigorate prospects for a political settlement of the Cyprus problem.

Given the current deadlock, the Council could take several actions to revive the peace process. It could encourage the parties to approach negotiations on the basis of “engagement without recognition” and undertake significant confidence-building measures, which could help facilitate the resumption of negotiations. It could also consider taking a more proactive approach to stimulate the process by exploring a change in UNFICYP’s mandate, including seeking options for downsizing and for a possible exit strategy.

Council members may wish to pursue a presidential statement expressing support for the renewal of Holguín Cuéllar’s mandate in search of common ground with the goal of returning to formal negotiations. The Council could also consider holding a private meeting with Holguín Cuellar to discuss the prospects for progress on the political track.

Council Dynamics

Cyprus remains a low-intensity issue on the Council’s agenda. Council members with a vested interest in Cyprus include France, Russia, and the UK, which also serves as the penholder on the issue. Greece, which was elected on 6 June to serve as a non-permanent member of the Security Council from 2025 to 2026, is a key stakeholder in relation to UNFICYP and one of the three guarantor powers.

While the Council is united in its support for UNFICYP and a political process based on a BBF with political equality, members diverge on the conditions and timeframe for the unification talks. Some members have previously supported a comprehensive strategic review of the mission and timed benchmarks for an exit strategy tied to the political process. Russia remains adamant that there be no external interference or attempts to impose solutions or timelines that might influence the peace talks.

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UN DOCUMENTS ON CYPRUS
Security Council Resolutions
30 January 2024S/RES/2723 This extended the mandate of UNFICYP until 31 January 2025.
Secretary-General’s Reports
3 January 2024S/2024/12 This report was on UNFICYP, covering developments from 13 June to 12 December 2023.
3 January 2024S/2024/13 This was the report on the Secretary-General’s mission of good offices in Cyprus.

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