What's In Blue

Cyprus Mission Renewal

Tomorrow afternoon (18 July), the Council is scheduled to adopt a resolution renewing the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) for a further six months, until 31 January 2013. While Council members all agree that the mission—which has been on the island since 1964—should continue, the negotiations over the text for this particular renewal have been more contentious than on previous occasions. This afternoon, the UK circulated a revised version of a draft that was distributed to Council members on Monday, and it looked likely that the amended version would be put in blue today.

The negotiations on the renewal of UNFICYP this month come against the backdrop of the unproductive high-level talks this year to negotiate a settlement between the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots. The negotiations—at least at the leadership level—have come to a standstill and seem unlikely to be revived before a new president of Cyprus is elected in February 2013.

Concerning the negotiations on the UNFICYP text, differences among Council members seem to have centred on whether to alter the language of the previous UNFICYP resolution by referencing a review of the mission in due course. The UK, as the Council lead on Cyprus, has been in favour of examining whether the current configuration of UNFICYP is the most efficient and effective use of resources. With this in mind it chose to include language referencing a specific review in the draft resolution. Several members seemed to be comfortable referring in the preambular paragraphs to keeping peacekeeping operations—including UNFICYP—under review to ensure “efficiency and effectiveness”, as well as referring to a review of UNFICYP, albeit without any specifics on its timing.

Altering the language of UNFICYP’s mandate has been a politically sensitive issue, however, not least for the Republic of Cyprus itself. It seems that several Council members preferred to retain the language from resolution 2026 of 14 December 2011 and roll-over the mission’s mandate without further amendments. Russia has been one of the countries that has taken the position that settlement of the Cyprus problem cannot be imposed upon the two sides and has been in favour of keeping the UNFICYP mandate unchanged while negotiations continue.

Other members, namely China, Guatemala, India and Morocco also seem to have expressed reluctance about including reference to a specific review in the absence of an indication from the Secretary-General, or perhaps the Fifth Committee, that a strategic review would be timely. (UNFICYP was last reconfigured at the start of 2005, following the failure of the Annan Plan in 2004. The mission’s troop numbers were reduced from 1,300 to 860.) It seems that several of these members would prefer any changes to UNFICYP’s mandate to be signalled as part of a broader effort across UN missions concerning efficiency of resources, rather than addressing UNFICYP in isolation.

It appears that—in order to be acceptable to all 15 members—the final agreement reached on the text will need to include compromise language on the notion of an appropriate review of UNFICYP in the future.

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