What's In Blue

Posted Wed 28 Mar 2012

Downer to Update Members in Cyprus Consultations

Council members are scheduled to meet in consultations tomorrow morning (29 March) to discuss Cyprus. Alexander Downer, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Cyprus, is set to brief members via video-conference on recent negotiations on Cyprus. He has been meeting with, among others, the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders and is likely to update members on Thursday’s meeting of the two leaders, which would have been held just a few hours before he briefs Council members. It seems that no outcome document will be released following tomorrow’s consultations. (Downer is expected to submit a written report later this week and to discuss it on 19 April with the Secretary-General in New York.)

During tomorrow morning’s consultations, Council members are also likely to discuss the most recent assessment report of the Secretary-General on the status of negotiations in Cyprus (S/2012/149). The five-page report makes clear that the Secretary-General had written to both leaders prior to the “Greentree II” negotiations held in January and “expressed the understanding” that the talks had entered their final phase. It seems he also urged the parties to “unblock the remaining obstacles” so that the discussions at Greentree could lead to a multilateral conference and, ultimately, a settlement.

However, progress at the retreat was “limited”. It seems that the two sides have reached an impasse on the issue of electing the executive and although some preliminary steps have been taken on the issue of property (where both sides are exchanging data), a final outcome is dependent on resolution of long-standing territorial questions. The two sides are expected to address property issues again on Thursday.

Among Council members, most states seem united in the view that both parties should take additional steps to reach convergences on the outstanding issues. However, some permanent members—particularly the UK—stress that the status quo cannot continue indefinitely and that the first half of 2012 is the time to reach a settlement. Others—notably Russia and France—emphasise that it is up to the two parties to reach an agreement and that a settlement should not be forced upon them.

One issue which some Council members appear interested in discussing further is the impact of Cyprus’s assumption of the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU on 1 July on prospects for a settlement. (The Secretary-General’s report of 12 March does not mention the date specifically, but it notes “the current window of opportunity is not limitless and there is little to suggest that the future will bring more propitious circumstances for a settlement.”)

Media reports have recently quoted the Turkish Cypriot leader as saying that it would not be possible to make progress on negotiations after 1 July. (Cyprus will hold the presidency for six months; the country is also due to hold presidential elections in February 2013.) Turkish Cypriots seem to favour the Secretary-General proceeding with plans to call a multilateral conference before July, while the Greek Cypriots emphasise the need to reach consensus on “internal issues” before such a conference takes place.

The mandate of the UN mission in Cyprus (UNFICYP), which was established in 1964 by the Council, expires on 19 July. The mission’s approved budget for the current year is $58 million.

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