What's In Blue

Posted Wed 23 Jan 2013

Cyprus Mission Resolution

The Security Council is scheduled to adopt a resolution on Thursday morning (24 January) renewing the mandate of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP). The adoption follows the consultations among Council members last week (17 January) when the Special Representative and head of UNFICYP, Lisa Buttenheim, briefed on the Secretary-General’s latest report (S/2013/7) and developments in Cyprus. As is customary, the mandate seems set to be rolled-over for a further six months.

During the consultations last Thursday, apparently there was agreement in principle among Council members for the mandate of UNFICYP, which has been in place since 1964—to be extended for six months, based on the language from the previous renewal in resolution 2058 adopted on 19 July 2012.

One reason why Council members considered it important not to alter the mandate at this stage is that the Republic of Cyprus holds the first round of presidential elections on 17 February. (President Demetris Christofias will not be seeking re-election.) Council members saw this as an inopportune time to significantly change the UNFICYP text, given the political messages that could be inferred from any alterations.

Although the present draft text largely uses the language from the previous renewal, the negotiations leading to resolution 2058 were not always smooth, and culminated in abstentions from Azerbaijan and Pakistan (see S/PV.6809). Pakistan, which is Council President this month, asserted back then that insufficient time was given to all Council members to engage on the text while Azerbaijan was not pleased that its proposed amendments went “unheeded”. In particular, Azerbaijan complained that its proposal to review UNFICYP—which became a contentious issue last year—was not given “due consideration”.

It seems that over the last week Azerbaijan once again made proposals to the text ahead of experts’ negotiations. Following bilateral meetings with the UK—the lead on Cyprus—and negotiations among all members it seems that differences have tried to be accommodated and reflected in the text. The draft resolution has been put into blue but it was unclear at press time whether this final text would be acceptable to all members and if the resolution would be adopted unanimously.

One of the notable points about the draft text is how the Good Offices mission in Cyprus, which is headed by former Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, is mentioned. The draft resolution notes that the Good Offices report will be submitted “in the next reporting period” rather than in “March 2013” specifically, as stated in the recent UNFICYP report. It is also unclear whether Downer will report separately to the two sides’ leaders following the Greek Cypriot election on convergences in the negotiations since 2008 as originally suggested, although that is perhaps now less likely.

Since the collapse of high-level talks between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders nearly a year ago, there has effectively been no progress in the settlement negotiations. Whereas some regular Secretary-General’s reports on UNFICYP have contained sections on the Good Offices mission, separate reports have also sometimes been published as well—as in March last year. However since the latest process began in 2008 there has been no strict timetable for reporting.

Another possible new element to the draft UNFICYP text is an indirect reference to the absence of high-level negotiations, including during the six-month period in 2012 while the Republic of Cyprus held the rotating EU presidency. In the last resolution the two leaders were called on to “improve the public atmosphere in which the negotiations are proceeding,” whereas this draft calls on them to “improve the public atmosphere for the negotiations”. While the change may seem purely semantic, the wording of UNFICYP resolutions have often been politically charged and is picked over with a fine-tooth comb, so even seemingly minor changes may be seen as significant.

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