Consultations on Cyprus
Tomorrow (30 May) Council members will be briefed in consultations by video conference by Alexander Downer, the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Cyprus. Downer had hoped to bring new information to Council members following a social dinner he planned to host on 29 May, bringing together the President of the Republic of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu. The dinner has been moved to the evening of 30 May, and will now be immediately preceded by the briefing.
Council members will be very interested to hear Downer’s thoughts on the prospects for a return to negotiations between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots in the coming weeks. This will be Downer’s first briefing to the Council since 10 July 2012. In 2012, talks between the two sides reached an impasse when the Republic of Cyprus assumed the presidency of the EU on 1 July, and remained suspended in the run up to presidential elections in the Republic of Cyprus on 17 February 2013. Nicos Anastasiades, who won those elections, previously supported the “Annan Plan” in 2004, which proposed the establishment of a federated United Cyprus Republic comprising two component states, a fact which has left some Council members optimistic that a return to negotiations could successfully resolve the Cyprus problem in the near future.
Some Council members question the utility of holding the briefing before the dinner with the two sides, though the decision to brief first may be designed to reduce the impression that the meeting may touch on substantive concerns as Anastasiades has threatened not to attend should the dinner be billed as the start of new peace talks. On 17 May, the Republic of Cyprus sent a letter to the Secretary-General that apparently requested assurances that the dinner would be a social event and would not touch on any substantive issues. On 23 May, Ambassador Nicholas Emiliou (Republic of Cyprus) met with the Chef de Cabinet of the Secretary-General, Susana Malcorra, confirming that the event would be purely social in nature.
Some Council members may be interested in providing Downer with a message to deliver to the participants in the dinner, such as encouraging them to return to negotiations as soon as possible. For those elected members who joined the Council in January, this will also be their first briefing from Downer, and so these consultations will also provide an opportunity for each member to restate their positions on Cyprus, especially in advance of the mandate renewal of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) expected in July. While Council members generally agree that the sides should continue working towards a mutually agreeable settlement, various Council members are perceived to be closer to one side or another: for example France and Russia tend to be more sympathetic to Greek Cypriot positions while Azerbaijan hews closely to the Turkish Cypriot line. Additionally, some Council members, especially the UK (the penholder on Cyprus), are interested in speeding up the negotiating process and initiating a review of UNFICYP with an eye towards an eventual drawdown of that mission, a process the Greek Cypriots particularly oppose.